- (Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen)
Israel has deployed an "Iron Dome" missile defense system near Jerusalem, apparently to brace for possible fallout if the United States decides to attack Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.
The Associated Press said Sunday it has video footage of the missile defense system positioned on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
The "Iron Dome" system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells. In the past, the system has shot down hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip at Israeli cities.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military told Agence France-Presse that "defense systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments."
U.S. President Barack Obama has been pushing for congressional approval to bomb Syria to punish the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons in an attack in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, which killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children.
Congress will begin to debate military action on Syria Monday.
Israel has reasons to fear that it might be targeted with missiles by a group allied with Assad if the United States bombs Syria. As preparations, Israel has reportedly deployed air defense systems, recruited reserve soldiers and is handing out gas masks.
Assad has the support of Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah among other Shi'a groups. Assad is an Alawite, which is a Shiite offshoot. About 10 percent of Syria's population is Alawite, while about 70 percent of the people are Sunni Muslim. Those opposing the Assad regime include Islamists from other countries, including those from al Qaeda.
The delay in Obama's ability to gather support, both domestically and internationally, is being seen as his weakness. "The United States cannot afford to be seen as a weak and declining superpower whose red lines are not complied with," AFP quoted Boaz Ganor, director of the institute for counter terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, as saying. "It is essential for Obama to get the green light from Congress – not for the sake of the strike, which is likely to be merely symbolic – but in order to preserve the credibility of the American deterrent force in the Middle East."
However, many experts are warning that U.S. attack on Syria could be counterproductive in the absence of a clearly laid out agenda for the country's transition after the possible fall of Assad's regime. The country's Christians also fear the possibility of Assad's removal, as the minority has come under attack from his regime's opponents.
Over the past two years, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war between the supporters of Assad's regime and rebel forces seeking to overthrow his government.