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Israel Raises Iran Alert Level

File photo: An Arrow missile stands stationary as the Israeli flag waves.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Apr 25, 2006
As Middle East tensions rose this week Israel boosted the alert levels of its Arrow-2 ballistic missile defense system out of concern about a possible surprise Iranian attack.

The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that because of fears of an Iranian missile attack, Israel Defense Forces have raised the level of vigilance of their Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile defense system, built by Israel Aircraft industries and Boeing. The IDF have also reinforced personnel at the command center in the Palmahim Air Force base north of Ashdod, the newspaper said.

The heightened alert appears to be a response to growing tensions between the United States and Israel, and Iran. Israeli leaders appear concerned that Iran might retaliate against U.S. or Israeli air strikes to destroy or degrade its nuclear program by targeting Israel's main population centers.

Maj. Elyakim, commander of the Arrow missile battery at Palmahim, told the Post that the missile crews were always on high alert, but they were recently instructed to "raise their level of awareness" because of general developments on the Iranian front. The increased vigilance level, he said, was not due to specific intelligence but rather to the generally tense situation in the region.

Israel successfully test-fired the Arrow to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile configured to perform like an Iranian intermediate-range Shehab-3 in a December 2005 test.

"The [Arrow missile] unit works around the clock and is always on call," Elyakim told the Post. "But in wake of recent events, we have raised our level of awareness ... we have taken into consideration what is happening around us."

The Post cited sources as saying that the Arrow missiles at Palmahim had recently been upgraded.

Most U.S. analysts believe Iran has not yet developed its own nuclear weapons, but no one knows for sure. There have also been unconfirmed reports over the past few years that Iran may have succeeded in buying nuclear warheads from old Soviet weapons stocks following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last year confirmed that under his predecessor Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian manufacturers secretly sold Iran a dozen cruise missiles. Israeli sources cited by the Jerusalem Post said the missiles were sold in 2002 and could carry a nuclear warhead 1,800 miles -- from Iranian territory to Tel Aviv, where 4 million of Israel's 6 million population is concentrated.

The Post also noted, as previous BMD Focus reports by UPI have documented, that while the Arrow remains Israel's first line of defense against Iranian nuclear-capable missiles, the Jewish state also fields batteries of U.S.-manufactured Patriot PAC-3s as its backup interception system against incoming missiles.

Israel is known to have two operational Arrow batteries -- one stationed at Palmahim to protect Tel Aviv and the center of the country and the other at Ein Shemer near Hadera, the Jerusalem Post said

Source: United Press International

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Thousands of religious hardliners chanting "Death to America" gathered in Iran's central desert on Tuesday to celebrate a failed US hostage rescue mission 26 years ago. The anniversary of the US military debacle came amid a mounting war of words with Washington, reported to be mulling the use of force to rein in the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.







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