Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Friday he saw no reason for concern that Iraq might attack Israel with missiles during the coming months but said the government was monitoring the situation, reported The Associated Press.
Barak was responding to a report that the US military put a Patriot antimissile battery on alert for a possible deployment to Israel because of concerns that Iraq might decide to strike during the US presidential campaign.
The Washington Post said that the Pentagon, concerned about a possible threat from Iraq during the US presidential campaign, has alerted on Thursday an Army Patriot antimissile battery for possible deployment to Israel.
Quoting defense officials, the Washington Post said that the unannounced action was taken in response to concerns that Iraq could try to fire ballistic missiles at Israel. The unit alerted is the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, based near Frankfurt, Germany, the paper added.
Barak was quoted by the AP as saying he did not believe Israel needed extra Patriot batteries.
"We are following everything that is going on. We are ready for any development," he said. "I am not sure that we need to be concerned now, and I am not sure that the Patriot missile battery needs to be bothered,” he said.
In Germany, Lt. Cmdr. Dave Lee, a spokesman at the US European Command, said that certain units "are in a heightened state of alert in response to potential future operations." He did not elaborate, said the agency.
The United States has previously sent Patriots to Israel, but only in times of crisis. A Patriot battery consists of eight launchers and 64 missiles, but it is not clear that a full battery would deploy.
During the 1991 Gulf War, 39 Iraqi Scud missiles were fired at Israel, and the United States dispatched Patriots to Israel for the first time. The Patriots were used with limited success against the Scuds, many of which damaged neighborhoods in and around Tel Aviv, according to the paper.
In December 1998, the Pentagon again sent the missiles to Israel as tensions rose over Iraq's refusal to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors--a confrontation that culminated in the 70-hour US and British air war against Baghdad called Operation Desert Fox.
Israeli Transport Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who was the army chief of staff until 1998, said Friday he did not know about warnings of an Iraqi attack.
"If there are even scraps of information like that in the hands of the Americans, serious American information, we will find out about it," the AP quoted the minister as saying.
In partnership with the United States, Israel is developing a more advanced antimissile system, called the Arrow. The Arrow is designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the stratosphere, far from their targets. The first battery was turned over to the Israeli air force in March, according to The Associated Press.
Another test launch of the Arrow system is expected in the coming days, the Israeli military, the agency added – (Several Sources)
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