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Israel sets up Patriot missiles amid Iraq tensions

February 2, 1998
Web posted at: 12:24 p.m. EDT (1624 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel deployed four U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries in its southern Negev desert on Monday, apparently as a precautionary measure in light of the current standoff between Iraq and the United Nations.

, designed to take out incoming missiles, were rushed to Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, during which Iraq fired dozens of Scud missiles into the country.

The new, improved Patriot batteries were deployed on a hill overlooking the southern town of Arad, near Dimona, the site of a nuclear reactor that reportedly was a target of Iraqi Scuds in 1991.

Israel, at the urging of the United States, refrained from striking back at Iraq during the Gulf War, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iraq must take into account that Israel had the means to respond to any attack.

And this time, Netanyahu has said, "Israel, and Israel alone, will decide what its response will be."

"We are facing difficult days. I think that what's happening today in the Persian Gulf is a perfect reminder of the kind of neighborhood we live in," Netanyahu told high school students Monday.

"We have the ability to respond and to deter attacks and each side must take this into account," he said.

Senior Israeli army officials also said they would expect timely warning from the United States, should Washington decide to launch a military strike against Iraq.

"I'm sure we'll be informed of any attack and any changes in the Gulf area," Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai told CNN.

Iraq has not threatened Israel in the latest crisis but a poll published in an Israeli newspaper on Monday said most Israelis thought Iraq would be willing to strike again.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in Jerusalem on Sunday that Washington's response would be "swift and forceful" if Iraq attacked Israel or other countries in the region.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.


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