By ISRAEL HAYOM—
The winds of war are blowing through the Middle East. The U.S., Britain and France are preparing to attack Syria while Israel is trying to stay out of the picture.
However, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to Syria in response to threats that Syria would strike Israel in retaliation for Western military action.
“The State of Israel is ready for any scenario,” Netanyahu said. “We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond, and we will respond with great might.”
Meanwhile, Yaakov Amidror, Netanyahu’s national security adviser, met in Washington on Tuesday with his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice.
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu convened a urgent meeting with high-level officials — including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz — to discuss Israel’s security situation.
Israeli officials believe the chances of a Syrian attack on Israel are low. But if Syria does strike, officials say, Israel’s response will shake Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and lead to his downfall.
Gantz also delivered a deterrent message to Syria on Tuesday, saying, “Those who seek to harm us will find us sharper and more resolute than ever. We’re prepared to defend our citizens in any scenario that we’re faced with.”
Ya’alon sounded a similar note, saying, “Those who dare to test us will encounter the might of the IDF.”
The IDF has begun to refresh its forces in the north and the Israel Air Force has been put on alert.
Given the tension in Syria, residents of northern Israel are preparing for the possibility of war. Yet authorities have issued no new instructions to local municipalities and thousands of vacationers continue to flood the region.
“The bomb shelters have not been opened and educational institutions are operating as normal,” Yaara Kadosh, the spokeswoman for the Upper Galilee Regional Council, said.
The Haifa municipality is reviewing its procedures for a state of emergency. The city has a state-of-the-art underground operations room designed to survive even a unconventional weapons attack.
Nahariya Mayor Jackie Sabag told Israel Hayom that despite the rocket attack from Lebanon last week, the IDF Homefront Command had issued no new instructions.
In recent days, many Israelis have been arriving at post offices around the country to receive gas masks.
“Assad is crazy,” said Tzadok Chaim, who went to a post office in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to get a gas mask. “If he is willing to shoot chemicals at his people and spray them like cockroaches, he is capable of doing anything, including attacking us.”
Alana Finkler, a 37-year-old mother of two, said, “All day, I’ve worried about my children. I sent them to school and I went to pick up gas masks. I heard on the radio that there will be an American attack. I want to be able to sleep peacefully at night, knowing that if, God forbid, something happens, I’ll have what I need against it.”
The Knesset Homefront Preparedness Subcommittee was to hold a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the distribution of gas masks.