Israel: War delayed for at least two weeks

Monday, March 3, 2003

TEL AVIV The United States appears to have delayed its war against Iraq for at least another two weeks.

A senior Israeli military source said the Bush administration is not expected to launch a war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein until after March 15. The source said war plans appear to have been delayed, but did not elaborate.

The United States has not formally told Israel of the date of an Iraqi attack, Israeli officials said. They said Washington agreed to provide Israel notice of up to one day, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It is not our war," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "The extent of the threats are very low. We are taking all required steps to prepare."

But the source said the military has been closely following developments in and around Iraq and does not expect an imminent U.S. attack. The source said the United States has been operating in western Iraq to detect and destroy medium-range Scud-class missiles that could be fired toward Israel.

Israel does not expect the U.S. war against Iraq to significantly affect the Jewish state, the source said. The source said the launching of 42 Iraqi missiles toward Israel in 1991 will not recur. But the source did not rule out what he termed "isolated incidents."

So far, the source said, Israel does not plan to impose a wartime emergency regime on the country. Israelis will not be urged to prepare sealed rooms to protect against a weapons of mass destruction attack.

The source said Israel has completed preparations for any Iraqi missile attack, and the military's air defense is on high alert. Israel plans to deploy three PAC-2 batteries in the Tel Aviv area. Two Arrow-2 missile have already been deployed.

Israel does not expect the Iranian-backed Hizbullah to launch an attack on the northern border with Lebanon, the source said. But the source did not rule out a Hizbullah attack inside other areas of Israel or against Israeli interests abroad.

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