Iran could respond to a strike on its atomic facilities by Israel with a massive onslaught of missiles and rockets, al-Monitor quoted former Israeli Missile Defense Organization chief Uzi Rubin as saying on Thursday.
As a response to Israel's superior fighter aircraft and land assault weaponry, Tehran and allied state Syria, as well as the groups Hamas and Hezbollah, have focused on building up stocks of "standoff weapons" enhanced for greater targeting precision, flight distance and explosive payloads.
Rubin estimated that a minimum of 13,000 missiles and rockets capable of striking major metropolitan areas in Israel are being held by governments and nonstate actors that are hostile to Tel Aviv.
Israel has developed an array of missile defense systems to protect itself against feared strikes from the region. The Arrow 2 is designed to intercept missiles launched from Iran as well as neighboring Syria and Lebanon. Other systems include the developmental long-range Arrow 3 interceptor and David's Sling, which has the capability of destroying short-range missiles and rockets.
The majority of the threatening weapons are located in Syria, where army missile drills associated with ending the ongoing rebellion against the government in Damascus have allowed the Israeli military to gather much-needed insight about the nation's formerly shrouded missile arsenal.
While Hezbollah missile strikes on Israel during the 2006 conflict were limited to the northern part of the country, the Lebanon-based group has since acquired the ability to "cover all of Israel down to (its southernmost city, the Red Sea port of) Eliat," according to Rubin.
The Iranian military has begun fielding missiles in fortified silos that would make them difficult to eliminate in a first strike by Israel, he said.
"In Israel, no place is safe," Rubin said in Quantico, Va., where he gave a speech at the U.S. Marine Corps University. "Israel's main assets can be taken out. This is the new reality."
Tel Aviv is contemplating a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which the Israeli government asserts are dedicated to producing a weapon; Tehran insists its atomic activities are strictly peaceful.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday said his organization could create "real hell" for many Israelis by unleashing highly accurate rockets at a limited quantity of areas in Israel, Reuters reported, noting that Nasrallah might have been eluding to missile strikes on Israeli atomic facilities.
A successful missile strike on the Nahal Sorek and Dimona reactors could result in a massive release of harmful radiation on the surrounding area.
"I tell the Israelis that you have a number of targets, not a large number ... that can be hit with precision rockets ... which we have," the Hezbollah secretary general said. "Hitting these targets with a small number of rockets will turn ... the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zionists to real hell."
Israel would probably consider Nasrallah's comments as it continues to assess the wisdom of a pre-emptive attack on Iran, according to Reuters.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak previously projected that as many as 500 Israelis could be injured or killed by a retaliatory attack following an Israeli strike on Iran.
Nasrallah suggested that casualty figure would be markedly higher. "We can talk about tens of thousands of dead," he said.