Last updated: 27 August, 2013

Netanyahu vows fierce retaliation if Syria attacks

Israel will strike back “fiercely” if Syria attacks the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, as the US mulled military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“The State of Israel is prepared for every scenario,” he said following consultations on the crisis in Syria. “We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we detect any attempt to hurt us, we will react, and react fiercely.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came as Syria vowed to defend itself if the United States and its allies attacked the Assad regime, which allegedly used chemical weapons against its own citizens last week.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon echoed Netanyahu’s remarks later in the day.

“We are hearing the threats aimed at Israel, even though we are not involved in the bloody feud in Syria or other conflicts in the Middle East,” he said at a military ceremony in remarks carried on television.

“In the face of these threats we are acting in a level-headed and responsible manner, but also say in a clear and determined voice — whoever dares test us, will encounter the force of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces),” he said.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, speaking at the same ceremony, said “our enemies must know we are determined to protect our citizens in any action necessary and any possible scenario,”according to the army’s official Twitter account.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said his country’s capabilities would “surprise” the world, and warned that any military action against it would serve the interests of Israel and Al-Qaeda.

Washington has accused Assad’s regime of a cover-up, and has said it will provide more evidence of who was behind the attacks.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier on Tuesday that the military was prepared to act if Obama called for it.

Meanwhile, Israelis were rushing to replace old gas masks. A spokeswoman for the Israel Postal Service, which distributes the masks, said there has been a 300 percent increase in delivery orders in recent days.