October 6, 2010:
The Israeli Air Force has increased its training of air base personnel to keep bases operating after attacks by ballistic missiles. These warheads will either be filled with high explosives, cluster bombs or chemical weapons. Israelis know what kind of damage this stuff can do, and set up training programs that assume hits in different areas during each training exercise. The air base personnel then go through the procedures they have practiced to deal with each type of hit. Last year, twelve of these drills were held. So far this year, 25 have been conducted. The training exercises also often expose problems in the existing plans, which are then upgraded.
The danger is real. Syria has underground storage and launch facilities for its arsenal of over a thousand SCUD missiles. Armed with half ton high explosive or cluster bomb warheads, the missiles have ranges of 500-700 kilometers. Syria also has some 90 older Russian Frog-7 missiles (70 kilometer range, half ton warhead) and over 200 more modern Russian SS-21 missiles (120 kilometer range, half ton warhead) and M-600 missiles (250 kilometers range) operating with mobile launchers. There are also 60 mobile SCUD launchers. The Syrians have a large network of camouflaged launching sites for the mobile launchers. Iran and North Korea have helped Syria build underground SCUD manufacturing and maintenance facilities. The Syrian missiles are meant to hit Israeli airfields, missile launching sites and nuclear weapons storage areas, as well as population centers. Syria hopes to do enough damage with a missile strike to cripple Israeli combat capability. Hezbollah is also now armed with some SCUDs, but is more interested in killing civilians, and would aim their missiles at Israeli cities.
Israel has long been aware of the Syrian missile capabilities and any war with Syria would probably result in some interesting attacks on the Syrian missile network. The SCUD is a liquid fuel missile and takes half an hour or more to fuel and ready for launch. So underground facilities are a major defensive measure against an alert and astute opponent like Israel. In the past, Israel has threatened to use nukes against anyone who fired chemical weapons at Israel (which does not have any chemical weapons).
Over the last three years, the Israeli government has been passing around, to local governments, a war planning document. This study assumes a future war with Syria, and gives the local officials an idea of what to expect. Currently, the Israelis estimate that there would be as many as 3,300 Israeli casualties (including up to 200 dead) if Syria tried to use its long range missiles against Israel. If the Syrians used chemical warheads, Israeli casualties could be as high as 16,000. Over 200,000 Israelis would be left homeless, and it's believed about a 100,000 would seek to leave the country. Hezbollah apparently wants to be part of this, or maybe Iran just ordered the whole thing.