The Netherlands on Monday began moving two Patriot batteries to Turkey, where they will form part of NATO's defense of its member nation against ballistic missiles and other threats from Syria, the Associated Press reported.
The Dutch, U.S., and German militaries are each providing two Patriot units for the NATO mission in Turkey. More than 1,000 troops from the three countries are slated to staff the batteries for the duration of their deployment.
Dutch defense head Gen. Tom Middendorp said the Netherlands' Patriot missiles would be deployed in Turkey for 12 months. The systems were being trucked to the Dutch port of Eemshaven on Monday; they would ship out on Tuesday, arrive in Turkey on Jan. 22; and be activated by Jan. 26 about 75 miles from Syrian territory, Reuters quoted Middendorp as saying.
Shells from Syria landed in Turkey on multiple occasions in late 2012, reportedly causing at least five deaths. The Syrian military has also fired Scud missiles at rebel positions within the country, according to NATO.
"We want to prevent what could amount to large numbers of casualties among innocent civilians," the general said.
"These Scud missiles have a potential range of hundreds of kilometers, so they could easily hit Turkish cities. Besides explosives, they can also carry other types of payload, for instance chemical warheads," the general added. The Assad government is believed to hold a sizable chemical arms stockpile that includes hundreds of tons of nerve and blister agents and various forms of delivery systems.
It would take no more than 60 seconds to launch a Patriot missile upon identification of an incoming threat, said Lt. Col. Marcel Buis, who is to lead the Dutch operation in Turkey. The Patriot Advanced Capability 2 and 3 systems would not be able fire missiles into Syria, according to the report.