Israel: Surface-to-air missiles shipped to Hamas

Monday, October 16, 2006

JERUSALEM Israel has reported that Hamas ordered surface-to-air missiles meant to threaten Israeli air operations over the Gaza Strip.

Officials said the Israeli intelligence community has received information that Hamas has ordered and received anti-aircraft missiles. They said the missiles were Soviet-origin SA-7s, which arrived in the Gaza Strip from neighboring Egypt.

On Sunday, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was briefed on the Hamas missile order. Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of military intelligence's research department, said the Hamas surface-to-air missiles could endanger helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that fly over the Gaza Strip. He also reported the arrival of anti-tank missiles to the Gaza Strip.

A Cabinet statement said Baidatz discussed the "violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas, the increased smuggling of war materiel from Sinai." The statement did not elaborate.

Earlier, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported that $6 million worth of weapons were smuggled into the Gaza Strip last week. The newspaper based its report on Israeli military sources.

Hamas received its first shipment of SA-7s in 2004, officials said. A year later, the Israeli military determined a short-range air threat to its helicopters and combat jets that operated over the Gaza Strip.

Still, the military has never reported a Palestinian SA-7 strike.

Military sources said Palestinian insurgents tried to fire rocket-propelled grenades and an indigenous version of an air weapon toward Israeli helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles in February 2006.

Officials said Hamas has sought to obtain the SA-7 and more advanced missiles from Iran and Hizbullah. They said Iran has agreed in principle to expand training of Hamas fighters in a range of military skills, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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