Israel deploys Patriot missiles near nuclear reactor in Negev Desert
Thu Aug 22,11:00 AM ET
By CELEAN JACOBSON, Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM - Israel has deployed Patriot anti-missile missiles to protect its nuclear reactor against possible attack by Iraq, a media report said Thursday.
Y-Net, the website of the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, reported that the U.S.-made missiles were deployed near Israel's nuclear research reactor at Dimona in the Negev Desert in the south of the county.
Military officials on Thursday confirmed the deployment of both Patriot and Hawk missiles in southern Israel, but called the exercises routine.
Earlier this month the military deployed a battery of the sophisticated Arrow anti-missile missiles in central Israel. Officials made no reference to Iraq at the time, but many Israelis speculated it was in preparation for a possible attack by Iraq.
According to Y-Net, the air force deployed the Patriot battery which included a number of launchers over several hours on Wednesday night.
The report said the deployment was part of Israel's defense of its air space.
The United States has said it wants to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites), but has not confirmed it will go to war to do so. In the event of a U.S. attack on Iraq, it is widely believed Iraq would attack Israel.
Israel has said that unlike in the 1991 Gulf War ( news - web sites), it will not hold back in the face of an attack.
During that war, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles - all armed with conventional warheads - at Israel. Most of them struck the area around Tel Aviv.
One hit the area of Dimona in what Iraq said was an attempt to destroy the reactor.
Today, there is concern that Saddam may use non-conventional weapons including biological and chemical warheads.
Israel says the country is well prepared for an Iraqi attack.
In addition to the Patriot anti-missile system, which were used during the Gulf war to intercept incoming Scuds with limited success, Israel and the United States have jointly developed the Arrow system.
On Wednesday, Israel's Cabinet also decided to inoculate 15,000 security and rescue officials against smallpox in preparation for what officials said was a remote possibility of an Iraqi attack with non-conventional weapons.
In another protective step, potassium iodide pills offering a limited shield against radiation fallout will be issued to all Israelis.
An Israeli soldier walks toward a unit of recently deployed Patriot missiles near Israel's nuclear research reactor near the southern Israeli town of Dimona Monday Aug. 26, 2002 as part of Israeli military training. In the event of a U.S. attack on Iraq, most senior Israeli military officers and analysts believe Iraq would attack Israel, as it did during the 1991 Gulf War with 39 Scud missiles carrying conventional warheads. (AP Photo/ Meir Azoulay)