Nov. 3, 2009
The Tel Aviv area could become the newest target for rockets launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Tuesday morning during a briefing of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Yadlin said that the IDF had identified at least one test firing in which Hamas had successfully launched a rocket with a 60-kilometer range into the Mediterranean Sea.
Diagram of a Qassam rocket.
He went on to say he is concerned that Hamas has smuggled in Fajr-style rockets, an Iranian-produced artillery rocket that was also used by Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. It was not clear whether he meant the Fajr 3, which has a maximum listed range of approximately 50 km or the Fajr 5, which can reach upwards of 70 kilometers.
The intelligence chief said that despite the increase in Hamas’s capabilities, the recent summer was the quietest in dozens of years for four reasons: Israeli deterrence, aspirations regarding the Obama administration’s diplomatic policy, the group’s focus on force-building and because of internal struggles that have taken energy from the organizations. Hamas, he continued, does not want any conflict with Israel so that they can direct their energies toward strengthening their civil rule in Gaza, but is still continuing to smuggle weapons in through tunnels across Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.
Hamas, Yadlin warned, is not the only of Israel’s enemies to be strengthening. He said that Iran is funding, training and smuggling weapons to Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas, and that Iranian weapons are passing through Turkey and Syria – which he described as a “factory and storehouse” for weapons – to the Lebanese guerrilla group.
Hizbullah, he continued, is still storing weapons south of the Litani River in violation of UN Resolution 1701.
Yadlin also commented on the recent revelation made in September by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran was building an additional nuclear enrichment facility in the Shi’a holy city of Qom.
That facility, Yadlin emphasized, is not intended for civilian purposes, and he added that the enrichment carried out at this newly-revealed second facility will aid Iran in shortening the amount of time that it will take to acquire the necessary amount of enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons.
Also discussing Hamas on Tuesday, Minister-Without-Portfolio Bennie Begin said that the Islamist group was “in effect, an extension of Iran” and that Hizbullah was another such extension.
During an Army Radio interview on Tuesday, Begin said that when Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, “people assumed that the international community would not hold Israel accountable for what occurred there anymore.” After the disengagement, he said, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and began to fire rockets into Israeli territory.
Begin asserted that “although the cities of the South are no different from Tel Aviv,” 60-kilometer missile ranges showed that Hamas was “continually striving” for greater military capabilities.
“As long as there is no comprehensive agreement concerning border crossings, the deterrence we achieved during Operation Cast Lead will grow weaker,” he said.
During Operation Cast Lead last winter, Grad-type rockets, Qassam rockets, and mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory, with projectiles hitting Beersheba, some 40 kilometers from the Strip.
Though rocket fire from the Strip has decreased since the three-week offensive, weapons are continually smuggled through tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.
AP contributed to this report