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Israel Begins Deployment of  Patriot Anti-Missile Batteries - 2003-03-04


Israel today began deploying U.S. supplied Patriot anti-missile batteries in the greater Tel Aviv area, in preparation for the possible conflict in Iraq.

The Patriot batteries are being set up in at least three sites in the Tel Aviv area, including the nearby Jaffa area.

More Patriot batteries are expected to be deployed soon in other areas, including the northern coastal city of Haifa and near the atomic power plant at Dimona, in the south of the country.

Meanwhile, the head of Israel's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense, Yuval Steintz, says that Iraq does not pose the greatest danger to Israel.

Mr. Steintz says the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, and what he called possible large-scale terror attacks by Palestinians are more serious dangers than Iraq.

"The biggest threat to Israel is not from Iraq, the bigger threat to Israel is from the Hezbollah and from the long-range and very heavy missiles that were brought into Lebanon and threats of mega-terror by Palestinian organizations or others," Mr. Steintz said.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired over 30 Scud Missiles at Israel but all had conventional warheads and they caused few casualties.

Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, told the Israeli cabinet Tuesday that the chances of another such attack are low, but he said Israel is well prepared to defend itself in the event that it did happen.

He added that an American military strike against Iraq is, in his words, not Israel's war and it is does not have any interest in taking part in it.