Israelis Ready for War amid Looming Syria Threat

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with rebel forces in Syria this week, his office reported.

As the situation in the war-torn country worsens, Israelis practiced home front drills to be better prepared in the event war does break out.

Israelis of all ages headed to bomb shelters as part of a nationwide drill in preparation for the real thing. 

Dubbed "Turning Point 7," the three-day drill simulated rocket and missile attacks on Israeli cities, including chemical and nonconventional strikes.

The drill is annual, but the government held this one with tensions high on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Israel is also concerned that Hezbollah or other jihadi terror groups could acquire Syrian chemical weapons.

"This is one of the worst scenarios Israel could think about," Dr. Jacques Neriah, special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told CBN News.

More than 80,000 people have been killed so far in Syria's two-year civil war.

But Neriah says that neither those loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nor those opposing him are winning.

"So, we have a stalemate on the ground, which means that this civil war could last for several years," Neriah explained.

To further complicate matters, Syrian opposition forces have been overrun by thousands of jihadis who want to reestablish the Islamic caliphate.

"They want an Islamic state 100 percent," Neriah continued. "That's what they did in [the Syrian city] Homs when they took one of the quarters, was to ask all the Christians who are living there just to leave town. So you had 10,000 families leaving there."
 
Neriah says there are two possible outcomes: either Assad survives, strengthening Hezbollah and Iran, or he falls and the jihadis take over.

"One alternative is a nightmare; the second one is a worse nightmare," he said.

The United States and Europe say they are now working to bolster the rebel forces. But some say that would be a mistake.

"Today it's very difficult to say what the West should do because the West is out of options," Neriah said.

"When you take a dictatorship out, you create a political vacuum," Rev. Majed El Shafie, founder of One Free World International, told CBN News. "Who is using this political vacuum is the Muslim extremists and that's the scenario we saw happening in Egypt, in Yemen, in Tunis and so on and so forth. [The] same scenario will take place in Syria, and this will be [a] much bigger mistake."

Israeli officials say they'll stay out of the conflict unless they need to defend their citizens. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would continue to stop efforts by Syria to transfer weapons to Hezbollah.

Despite all the talk of war, many Israelis say they're not concerned.

"Israel is a really strong country and can beat everyone," said David, an 18-year-old from the coastal city of Ashdod. "Even if there will be five countries against us, or six countries, we can beat anybody."

"I'm afraid," one Russian immigrant told CBN News. "I don't want to be in a war."

"I'm not afraid yet, but I'm not happy about it, really not happy about it, because we understand that it's very dangerous," Ayelet from Rosh HaAyin told CBN News. "But I think we are still walking -- how you say it -- in a safe place."

Still, while most Israelis are hoping for the calm to continue, they know they must be prepared for war.

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Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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