German officials stressed that the missiles will only be used to defend Turkish territory and would not be a part of any "no fly zone" over Syrian territory.
"Nobody knows what such a regime is capable of and that is why we are acting protectively here," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
Officials said the Patriots will be programmed so that they can intercept only Syrian weapons that cross into Turkish airspace. They aren't allowed to penetrate Syrian territory pre-emptively. That means they would have no immediate effect on any Syrian government offensives — chemical or conventional — that remain strictly inside the country's national borders.
Due to the complexity and size of the Patriot batteries — including their radars, command-and-control centers, communications and support facilities — they will probably have to travel by sea and won't arrive in Turkey for another month, NATO officials said.
Violence in Syria, meanwhile, persisted. A booby-trapped car exploded outside the offices of the Red Crescent society in the al-Zahera neighborhood of Damascus, killing one person, according to state television.
It's the latest in a series of bombings that have hit Damascus in recent weeks amid fierce fighting in the capital's suburbs between Assad's forces and rebels seeking to topple him.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion was followed by a heavy deployment of security troops in the area on the southern edge of Damascus.
Associated Press writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.