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Israel raises preparedness on Syria front

Israel was bolstering its defence systems on Wednesday, the army said, ahead of a possible US attack on Syria that could spill across the Jewish state's northern border.

world Updated: Aug 28, 2013 17:59 IST

Israel was bolstering its defence systems on Wednesday, the army said, ahead of a possible US attack on Syria that could spill across the Jewish state's northern border.

"In light of the recent occurrences in the region, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is taking the necessary defensive measures to safeguard the state of Israel," military sources said.

"These measures include both active and passive defence mechanisms".

Army radio reported the military was moving Iron Dome missile defence systems in the north, as well as one Patriot missile defence battery to the western Galilee.

The United States and its allies blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime for chemical weapons attacks near Damascus last week, in which hundreds are said to have died, and are mulling military strikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday convened his eight-member security cabinet for consultations on the Syria situation, following which he said there was no room for alarm, while reiterating the military's preparedness for any development.

"Following an evaluation of the security situation that took place today, there is no reason to change life's routines," he said in a statement.

"At the same time, we are preparing for any scenario," he continued. "The army is ready to provide defence from any threat, and set to react with force to any attempt to harm Israeli civilians."

On Tuesday, Netanyahu had vowed a fierce reaction to "any attempt to hurt us" from Syria or its allies, in a possible reaction to a US attack.

Earlier on Wednesday, army spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai also tried to play down tensions, stressing there was no room for alarm at this stage.

The military was constantly "examining, monitoring and following the developments" in and regarding Syria, he wrote on Facebook, but there was "no reason to change our daily routines."

Nevertheless, Israelis continued to rush to replace old gas masks, in case of possible Syrian retaliation.

An AFP correspondent reported long queues at a Tel Aviv post office serving as a distribution centre for the masks.

And in the Knesset, a parliamentary committee on home front preparedness was holding a special emergency session. Ahead of the meeting, committee head Eli Yishai, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, blamed the government for closing gas-mask factories and not allocating sufficient funds for purchasing masks.

According to Yishai, 40 percent of Israel's citizens have yet to collect new gas masks.

Home front defence minister Gilad Erdan was to convene an emergency meeting later in the day.