JERUSALEM -- Israel, which has deployed two of its cutting-edge Arrow anti-missile batteries and is building a third, believes the air defense system would destroy more than 90 percent of any missiles launched by Iraq, officials said Sunday.
Also, the United States promised to give Israel three days notice ahead of any American military strike against Iraq, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot said. The report, which detailed a series of planned cooperation measures, did not cite sources, though the leading paper has top-level contacts with Israeli military and political leaders.
Amid the flurry of reports and speculation about a possible U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet ministers Sunday to limit their public comments and not speak about Iraq.
Sharon plans to travel to Washington to meet Bush on Oct. 16 for discussions about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and U.S. action in Iraq.
In Israel, many fear that Saddam would seek support from the Arab world by firing Scud missiles at Israel, as in the Gulf War, when Israel was targeted with 39 Scuds that caused damage and injuries, but no deaths.
With assistance from the United States, Israel spent the past decade developing the Arrow system, designed to intercept a Scud missile at high altitude early in its flight, before reaching Israeli airspace.
A Patriot can only knock out an incoming missile as it nears the end of its flight.
Israel still has Patriot batteries that can be used as a second line of defense. A Patriot battery was recently spotted and photographed by the media near Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona, in the southern Negev Desert.
"According to the simulations and experiments that we have done, we estimate that it is quite likely our success rate in dealing with missiles will be over 90 percent," said Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Nidek-Ashkenazi.
"All our estimates show that we are not expecting hundreds of missiles because (Iraq) doesn't have enough launchers," she said.
Israeli officials have acknowledged that one Arrow missile defense battery has been deployed at the Palmachim Air Force Base, south of Tel Aviv. That would protect Israel's largest metropolis, and surrounding areas.
Israeli officials have not said where the second battery is deployed. A third battery is under construction and could be deployed soon, according to a military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
If the United States strikes Iraq, the Americans will also provide Israel with up-to-the-minute satellite information that should detect any Scud launches, Yediot Ahronot reported.
The United States also plans to stockpile military equipment and spare parts at Israeli military bases, for possible use in a U.S. campaign, the newspaper said, without citing any sources.
In the early stages of any U.S. assault, American forces are expected to carry out an intensive search in Iraq's western desert, the launching site for any Scuds directed at Israel, the newspaper added.
"I'm not losing any sleep over the Iraqi threat since over the last decade, a significant gap has opened between Iraqi and Israeli capability," the army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon. "Of course, any Iraqi initiative against Israel will require that Israel defend itself."
The head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, told Israeli television he didn't expect Iraq to use missiles against Israel at the start of an American offensive. But he said Saddam might use rockets or aircraft to deliver chemical or biological weapons if he feels cornered.