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Friday, May 22, 2009

Israel: Hamas still smuggling SAMs into Gaza

TEL AVIV — Israel has assessed that the Hamas regime is still receiving shipments of man-portable air defense systems in the Gaza Strip.   

Officials said Israel's intelligence community has been tracking shipments of Russian-origin surface-to-air missiles from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. They said the flow of SAMs increased in 2009 in wake of the 22-day Hamas-Israel war in January. "Hamas realized that it could not confront an Israeli force without SAM systems," an official said. The Israel Security Agency has assessed that Hamas was acquiring SAM-7 and related systems from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. ISA director said Hamas smuggled 46 SAM rockets since the Hamas-Israel war.

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Officials said Hamas first acquired the SAM-7 Strella in 2007. But the anti-aircraft system, with a range of 3.5 kilometers, was not widely used in the war with Israel in December 2008 and January 2009. During the war, Hamas was said to have deployed U.S.-origin Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missiles. But the Stingers, with one exception, failed to fire against the U.S.-origin aircraft flown by the Israel Air Force. On May 20, Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Hamas also acquired 362 mortar shells, hundreds of rockets, 220 rifles and machine guns and 39 anti-tank rockets. He said 17 tons of explosives and 61 tons of fertilizer were also smuggled from Sinai. Fertilizer has been used in the production of explosives.

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