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Monday, January 12, 2009

Hamas rockets achieve 45 km. range, strike Israeli air bases

TEL AVIV — Military sources said Hamas struck at least two air force bases within a 50-kilometer vicinity of the Gaza Strip.

The sources cited Hamas rocket attacks on Tel Nof and Hatzerim but did not disclose the time of the attacks.

"The rockets struck these bases but nobody was injured," a military source said.

The sources said all military bases in a 50-kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip have been on alert for Hamas missile and rocket strikes. They said Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies have deemed Israeli military bases high-value targets that could be struck by unguided rockets.

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The Israeli military has not reported Hamas rocket strikes on its bases. The sources said this was meant to prevent Hamas from knowing in real-time whether its targets were struck.

During the current war, Hamas has demonstrated a capability to fire rockets that could fly at least 45 kilometers. The sources said the military expects Hamas to acquire Iranian-origin rockets with a range of at least 70 kilometers in 2009.

Hamas has claimed that its rockets struck Tel Nof, located 27 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. Tel Nof has served as a base for the air force's F-16 squadron.

A key concern, the sources said, was that Hamas would be ordered to strike Israel's commercial center in Tel Aviv and the nuclear facility in Dimona. The sources said both targets could be damaged, even by unguided rockets.

"Hamas wants to show Iran that it could cause strategic damage in any future war with Israel," the source said.

Israel has been targeting the commanders of Hamas's missile program, particularly in Gaza City, where many of the missiles and rockets were being launched. On Jan. 10, the military said ground forces killed the commander of Hamas's missile program in Gaza City, Amir Mansi.

"Mansi was also the leading Hamas authority with regard to the long-range Grad missile launching program," the military said in a statement.

Officials said the Israeli military has severely damaged Hamas's missile and rocket capabilities. They said Operation Cast Lead was launched amid the height of Hamas missile and rocket production in the central and southern Gaza Strip.

"Hamas intended to produce up to 20,000 rockets in the space of several months, but we struck their facilities after they manufactured about 2-3,000 rockets," a military source said.

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