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Israel Swears Its Missile Defense Can Block Syrian Attacks

• Noah Shachtman via

Israel may have attacked targets in Syria — and risked a wider war — to stop ballistic missiles from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists. But current and former Israeli missile defense officials insist that if Hezbollah militants ever got the Fateh-110 weapons, Israel could shoot the missiles out of the sky.

“We are now able to cope with all the missiles that are threatening Israel right now, including the longer-range missiles in Iran and in Syria,” Arieh Herzog, the former director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, tells Danger Room.

 Unless, of course, the extremists fired off a whole lot of the weapons at once.

Israel’s missile defense calculus and the decisions it makes based on that calculus have repercussions far beyond its own borders. The more vulnerable Jerusalem feels to indirect fire, the more likely the Israeli military is to hit missile stockpiles in places like Syria, as they reportedly did over the weekend. And the more that happens, the higher the chances that the already gruesome Syrian civil war escalates into a region-wide — or even global — conflict. (Already, President Obama under intense pressure to intervene more directly in the conflict.)

Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor system kept hundreds of crude, unguided rockets from hitting Israeli towns during 2012′s mini-war with Hamas. After the weekend’s airstrikes on Syria – attacks that the Syrian regime vowed to avenge – the Israel moved a pair of Iron Dome batteries to its north, in order to counter the low-tech threat. But Iron Dome would be useless against the 27 foot-long, Iranian-made Fateh-110s, which can come crashing down on a targets hundreds of miles away at three and a half times the speed of sound. The missiles give Hezbollah the ability to blast Tel Aviv and nearly every other major Israeli city. Oh, and they might be capable of carrying chemical warheads, too.

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