Feb 20, 2008

Israel Deploys Patriot in the North

Jerusalem Post

Israel has deployed a battery of US-made Patriot air defense missiles near the northern port city of Haifa as part of precautions against a possible attack by Lebanon's Hizbullah in response to the assassination last week of the group's top commander, Israeli security officials said Monday.

The officials said the battery was put on standby Sunday for the first time since Israel's monthlong war with Hizbullah in the summer of 2006, when the Lebanese guerrillas fired nearly 4,000 rockets into northern Israel. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Patriot batteries were first deployed in Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, but they failed to stop most of the 39 Scud missiles launched by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They were originally designed to intercept aircraft, and Israeli media reported their role in the current situation would be to shoot down bomb-laden pilotless planes as well as rockets.

The IDF said it was not its policy to comment on what a spokesman called "operational readiness,"

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel is "prepared on all fronts" for an attack.

Hizbullah and its Iranian backers swiftly blamed Israel for last week's assassination of top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. The government denied involvement, but Israel is widely believed to have carried out similarly daring, complex and deadly strikes against other terror masterminds in the past.

Following the Mughniyeh assassination, Hizbullah vowed to hit Jewish targets outside Israel in retaliation.

Israel blamed Mughniyeh for the 1992 bombing of its embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 people. Argentina linked him to the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people.

He was also linked to bombings that killed hundreds of US military personnel in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.