Defense officials believe that fewer than 300 Israelis would be killed if Iran were to retaliate against possible Israeli military action, Channel 10 News reported on Monday.
According to the report, members of the Political-Security Cabinet were informed of the assessment on Sunday. In the worst-case scenario presented to them, Israel would be struck by missiles on all its fronts for a period of three weeks, but would only incur an estimated 300 casualties – the lowest casualty estimate yet.
Last November, Defence Minister Ehud Barak commented on civilian casualties that might result in the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“There’s no chance in such a situation for 500,000 killed, not 5,000 or even 500 killed,” Barak told Israel Radio.
Other defense officials have spoken about an existential threat to the country or, in the least, tens of thousands of Israeli deaths resulting from missile strikes from Hezbollah and possibly Syria in the north, Gaza-based terrorists in the south, and Iran in the east.
The assessment was based on the most extreme scenario that could occur in 2012, at a time when the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system is not yet fully deployed throughout the country.
Channel 10 reported that the Political-Security Cabinet was told that, in the event of a conflict with Iran, thousands of missiles would be launched against Israel, mainly from Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah and from Syria, if it chose to join the war. According to estimates, fewer missiles would be launched from the Gaza Strip, while a few could be launched by Iran as well, although the Islamic Republic’s conventional ballistic missile program is not believed to be advanced enough to pose a significant threat.
Compared to this latest assessment, on the eve of the First Gulf War in 1991, defense officials estimated that then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein would launch 40 missiles against Israel, which would result in 120 deaths. In reality, the Iraqi despot launched 42 missiles at Israel, which resulted in the death of only one person.
Talk of the cost of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities has been widespread in recent months. Some experts believe such an attack would result in a regional war, and possibly drag the U.S. into the conflict as well.
Vice Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who also serves as minister of intelligence and atomic energy, indicated in February that Israel was facing a new type of peril. “Whereas in the past, there was a battlefield where tanks fought tanks, planes fought planes, there was a certain push not to see the homefront affected. Now the war is mainly in the homefront,” Meridor told The Associated Press.
“All of Israel [is vulnerable to] tens of thousands of missiles and rockets from neighboring countries. So of course we need to understand the change of paradigm,” he continued. “If there is a war, and I hope there isn’t a war, they are not just going to hit Israeli soldiers. The main aim is civilian populations.”