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Israeli Air Force on High Alert

Israel's air force has been put on high alert, making preparations to intercept any incoming Iraqi missiles.

Brigadier General Yair Dori, Israel's air force commander, expressed strong confidence that Israel could defend itself against Iraqi missile attacks. He was speaking to reporters at an air base, where he also confirmed that the forces had moved into their highest state of alert.

General Dori says Israel is taking no chances, despite the assessment that the possibility of an attack is low.

He says Israel currently has the only military in the world capable of operating a dual anti-missile defense system. The system includes the Arrow missile, developed jointly with the United States to intercept missiles at high altitudes, and the U.S.-made Patriots operating at lower levels.

Despite its sophistication, General Dori cautioned that no system is foolproof.

Citing one possible weakness, he said that were Iraq to fire multiple Scuds at the same time, then he could only hope that Israel's defense system would succeed in stopping them.

He also indicated that the Arrow missile system had malfunctioned, after going into high alert. An alarm went off during his news briefing and military personnel donned gas masks. When it became evident a few minutes later that there was no incoming missile, General Dori said it was the first known instance of the system producing what he described as a false alarm.

The Arrow is designed to intercept an Iraqi missile over the Syrian-Jordanian border, Israeli military officials said.

The interception would occur at such a high altitude that if the warhead contained chemical or biological materials, they would dissipate in the atmosphere and not harm anyone on the ground, the officials said.

The system has undergone repeated tests, which were deemed to have been successful, but it had never been used in a war situation.