Israel will not intervene in the Syrian crisis "unless red lines that we set are crossed," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday. "The Syrian regime knows that those who challenge us will meet the IDF's firepower."
Speaking at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism's international annual summit in Herzliya, Ya'alon said Syrian President Bashar Assad "blatantly used chemical weapons against his own people," adding that Israel was "preparing for the consequences of action (against Syria) and also for the consequences of inaction."
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The defense minister said a situation assessment meeting held by the Cabinet earlier in the day determined that Israelis should "keep the daily routine. He said, "Anyone who planned vacations during the (High Holy) holidays can continue with their plans. My assessment is that their plans will not be disrupted."
Ya'alon reiterated Israel's red lines for action on Syria, which include an attempt to transfer strategic weapons – among them, unconventional arms – to terrorist organizations, especially Hezbollah. An additional red line involves an attack on Israeli sovereignty, he told the conference.
Addressing US President Barack Obama's plan to attack Syria, Ya'alon said the US "sees itself as being morally responsible for world order."
Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who also spoke at the conference, said Israel should not intervene. "We will be giving Assad longevity if we head the front that calls to topple him. It will cause forces to unite around him. Part of our strength is wisdom. Assad is responsible for the creation of the 'axis of evil' and for Iran's influence over Lebanon. He has turned the use of sarin gas into a tactical tool to solidify his rule," the official said.
Earlier Sunday, an Israeli official said Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to achieve a diplomatic settlement that would prevent an American strike in Syria.
According to the official, Putin launched intensive talks with the European Union, the Syrians and the Iranians in hopes of reaching a deal that would prevent an American strike and see Assad remove chemical weapons from his country.
As the United States lobbied for domestic and international support for military strikes against Syria, the Israeli Air Force set up an Iron Dome missile defense battery in the Jerusalem area on Sunday following situation assessments by the IDF.
While formally on the sidelines of the Syrian crisis, Israel fears coming under reprisals from its northern foe should the United States launch strikes to punish Damascus for alleged use of chemical weaponry.
Asked how much advance notice Israel would get from its US ally about such attacks, an Israeli official briefed on contacts with Washington told Reuters: "Hours."
President Obama has run into formidable US domestic opposition to military action. Wary of appearing to meddle in American affairs, most Israeli officials have not publicly commented on the debate.
Obama has asked Congress to approve strikes against Assad's government in response to a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 Syrians.
Reuters contributed to the report
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