Israel moved a Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery to its nuclear research
center at Dimona, in the Negev desert. Israel fears a Syrian attack on Dimona,
as revenge for the September 6 Israeli attack on a Syrian nuclear research
facility. Considering the strength of Israeli air defenses, and the sorry state
of the Syrian air force, such an attack would be unlikely. But Syria has dozens
of ballistic missiles that could make the trip. The only possible defense is
anti-missile missiles. Israel is supposed to be receiving the U.S. PAC-3
anti-missile missile for the Patriot, but it is not known if Israel has it yet.
Israel does have the older Patriot PAC-2 anti-missile missiles. While the PAC-3
missiles are more effective, their range is only 20 kilometers. But that's
large enough to cover the Dimona research center and the nearby town of Dimona
(and its 33,000 residents.)
Syria would be taking a big
risk by attacking Dimona. Israel could easily respond with an air campaign that
would destroy most of Syria's air force and many of its tanks and other
military equipment. That said, Syria has done dumb things like this before.