Israel burnishes preventive strike capability


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel said it could strike Iran’s ballistic missile batteries pre-emptively, if necessary.

"We have our ability, which is essentially the ability in terms of airpower and early intelligence-collection, to hit launch sites everywhere — from a range of a few kilometers in Gaza and Lebanon to a range of hundreds of kilometers deep in Lebanon and Syria," Civil Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Wednesday.

"And beyond that, at far greater ranges, including if we find ourselves involved in the matter of Iran," he told the annual Israel Aerospace International Conference and Exhibition in Jerusalem.

"This strike capability is a core element in defending the State of Israel’s home front."

With the United States and Western allies imposing new sanctions against Iran, and international speculation simmering that Israel might attack its arch-enemy’s nuclear program unilaterally, the Netanyahu government has tried to rein in belligerent rhetoric.

Vilnai addressed a common concern — that Iran could retaliate for a future strike by firing intermediate-range Shehab missiles at Israel.

Missile expert Uzi Rubin, who also spoke at the conference, estimated that Iran has around 400 Shehabs, a capability amplified by the shorter-range rockets of Tehran’s terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

But Vilnai, a retired army general, voiced cautious confidence in Israel’s superior firepower after it was demonstrated in the Lebanon War in 2006 and the Gaza war in 2008-09.

"Today, too, Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South are deterred by the IDF’s might," he said, "but that is something that is true as of this morning and could change at any moment."

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