“Syrian batteries are in a high state of operability, ready to fire at short notice,” said Israel Air Force Colonel Zvika Haimovich in special briefings to international media Friday. He disclosed that Israel tracks every missile fired in the Syrian civil war, since southward launches would give Israel mere seconds to determine it was not the true target. “All it would take is a few degrees’ change in the flight path to endanger us.”
Speaking at the Palmachim air and missile base south of Tel Aviv, Col. Haimovich explained that long-range radars feed real-time data on the barrages to the base command where officers are braced to activate Arrow II. The more threatening launches set off sirens in Palmachim. Warplanes there are also on standby to scramble.
“We are looking at all aspects, from the performance of weaponry to the way the Syrians use it," said the Israeli air force officer. “They have used everything that I am aware exists in their missile and rocket arsenal [against Syrian rebel forces]. They are improving all the time, and so are we… but we need to study and be prepared.”
Another Israeli expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, described a combination of split-second analysis of the strength of the launch with up-to-date intelligence on Bashar Assad's intentions. He said Israel had beefed up its deployment to more than four nationwide batteries, to allow for repeated interception of any incoming missile. The intention is “to ensure that we have at least two opportunities to intercept. We have not yet been called into action on the northern front, but I believe that we will be," said this officer.
In Washington, Pentagon sources reported that the United States was sending Patriot missile defense systems and F-16 fighter jets to Jordan for the annual joint Eager Lion exercise between the two armies. The sources did not say whether the Patriots and fighter jets would withdraw after the two-month exercise. The US officials pointed out that the Patriots would not shield Jordan from Syrian Scuds, but were a demonstration of US support for the Hashemite kingdom.
At the same time, debkafile’s military sources report a high degree of operational coordination between the US Patriot deployments in Jordan and Turkey and the Israeli Arrow 2 preparedness for a potential missile attack which could come from Iran, Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.
Another component of this missile shield is the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aboard US warships in the Mediterranean.
Moscow, for its part, continues to sow confusion about the delivery of its S-300 anti-air missile batteries to Syria, but has shown its hand on another issue, by blocking a UN Security Council motion that would have condemned Hizballah. Tabled under the heading of “a declaration of alarm over Qusayr” the Council was asked to express “grave concern” over the dire events in that town since Hizballah forces fighting with the Syrian army captured most of its urban area.
Our military sources report heavy fighting is raging in the northern sector of al Qusayr since the rebels brought in reinforcements for their last stand late last week.
A Hizballah siege force has cut off food and water supplies for the 10,000 civilians and 2,500 opposition fighters trapped in that corner of the town. At least 1.200 wounded people are without access to medical attention.
Moscow claimed it blocked a Security Council motion on al Qusayr because there was no UN condemnation when the Syrian rebels captured the town in 2012.
For Israel, the Russian UN action is of great concern because it amounts to the extension of Moscow’s patronage not just to the Assad regime but also to Hizballah which spearheaded the al Qusayr offensive. This is consistent with the pledges of support Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah during their secret conversation in Beirut on April 27.
When questioned on this score, Russian diplomats were evasive - in the same way as they are ambiguous about the S-300 missiles. However Moscow’s Security Council action leaves no room for doubt that Hizballah’s military intervention in the Syrian war has won a powerful champion in Moscow.