Ha’aretz Daily, March 05, 2003
Israel yesterday completed its deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries, while a senior officer said Iraq has not deployed any of its own missiles in western Iraq within range of Israel.
Although Iraq possesses some missiles that could be used against Israel, they have not been moved to areas from which they could reach the country, said Military Intelligence commander Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi, who told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that if Turkish approval for U.S. deployment inside Turkey is forthcoming, the war in Iraq could begin as early as next week.
In the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam Hussein’s forces fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, launching them from the desert of western Iraq, the closest region to the Jewish state. The Scuds, all with conventional warheads, caused damage but few casualties.
Though Israeli experts and officials consider the chances of a new Iraqi attack to be slim, Israel has been gearing up for the possibility of an Iraqi assault with biological or chemical weapons, positioning anti-missile systems designed to intercept missiles from Iraq and distributing gas masks to citizens.
Israel has deployed U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries around Tel Aviv. Several Patriot batteries were set up on yesterday a beach in southern Tel Aviv, and the army declared the Patriot deployment throughout the country, complete. Israel has also deployed several Arrow missile batteries, jointly developed with the United States after the Patriots were largely ineffective in the 1991 Gulf War. The Arrows are designed to intercept incoming missiles high in the stratosphere and far from their targets, unlike the short-range Patriots.
Iraq has the capability to attack Israel with jet fighters but is very unlikely to attempt to do so, knowing that Israel’s air force could intercept any incoming plane, Ze’evi told the Knesset session yesterday and it is improbable that Iraq would try to launch a preemptive strike against Israel ahead of the U.S. campaign.
The U.S. is prepared militarily for an offensive to begin as soon as next week, depending on diplomatic developments, Farkash said.
The chairman of the parliamentary committee, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, said after the briefing that Iraq’s destruction of 19 missiles at the instruction of weapons inspectors is “a joke” designed to trick the international community into thinking Iraq’s intentions were peaceful. But Iraq poses “very little danger” to Israel at his point, Steinitz said. Copyright 2003 Haaretz. All rights reserved