Imported or homemade, Gaza's rocket arsenals bedevil Israel

JERUSALEM Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:59am EST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's assault on Gaza's rocket arsenals is aimed at countering what it sees as a growing strategic threat posed by Iranian-supplied missiles smuggled in through Egypt.

Though by the far the superior military power, Israel had been unable to stop the Palestinian rockets needling its southern towns over the past decade.

Since the latest flare-up of hostilities, rockets fired from Gaza have killed three Israelis, on top of a death toll of about 30 people since 2001.

The missiles, while a threat to the Israelis who live within range, are not precision-guided and sirens usually give people just enough warning to take cover before they hit. Others have been knocked down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system.

But among the Israelis' concerns is this: If they go to war against their arch-enemy Iran's nuclear program, the Islamist Hamas-governed Gaza Strip could serve as a launch pad for the reprisals promised by Tehran.

By Monday, Israel said it had carried out 1,350 air strikes against Gaza arms caches and other sites. But the rocket fire persisted, hitting mostly within a 25-km (15 mile) radius.

"The Palestinian capabilities, we can assume, have been damaged, but they remain intact as a cycle of fire has been maintained," said Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert.

That may reflect the priorities of Israel's targeting.

As with its 2006 offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Israel's opening broadside in Gaza last Wednesday was against what it described as underground stores and silos of the longest-range guerrilla rockets hidden there.

The most powerful of these were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s, with 75 km (46 miles) ranges and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads capable of reaching Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

At 6 meters (18 feet) in length, the Fajr-5s are hard to transport and conceal. The Israelis say Iran has been manufacturing them for Hamas, which brings them in through Sudan and the Egyptian Sinai, under whose desert frontier with Gaza there is a network of smuggling tunnels.

STRIPPED DOWN ROCKETS

Israeli security sources said around 20 of the Fajr-5s had been destroyed on the ground. Hamas has fired rockets at Tel Aviv four times since, though Israeli sources said some of those were less powerful variants on the Fajr, stripped of their weighty explosives for extra range and greater psychological effect.

One such example might have been the rocket Hamas fired on Friday at Jerusalem, which it called a homemade "Qassam M-75".

The Gaza arsenal is pyramid-like, with the Fajr-5s at the apex and shorter-ranged rockets stockpiled in greater numbers.

Before their current offensive, the Israelis spoke of Gaza having a total of 10,000 rockets and mortar bombs. Most of those rockets were homemade, with 15-km (10 miles) ranges and dubbed Qassams by Hamas though other factions use different names.

Gaza also had a quantity - in the lower thousands, according to Israel - of imported, Soviet-style Grad or Katyusha rockets with ranges of between 20 km and 40 km (12 miles and 25 miles).

Palestinians have fired more than 1,100 rockets and mortars since Wednesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. She did not say how many more had been bombed on the ground.

Many of the Gaza rockets are in buried launch tubes that have allowed them to be fired at Israel by remote control, sparing Palestinian guerrillas exposure to counter-strikes.

How Hamas members weather the assault will prove key to further fighting. Though the faction's overall military commander, Ahmed al-Jaabari, died in an Israeli missile strike that triggered this round of violence, Hamas has local squads in Gaza's towns and camps that can, to a degree, operate independently.

More than half of the 90 Palestinians killed in the clashes have been civilians, Gaza hospitals said. Israel has said a significant number of the dead were fighters, but has published the names of just three senior figures other than Jaabari.

Should Israel escalate to an invasion, its troops and tanks would have to contend with guerrillas in Hamas bunkers and trenches that still function, Israel Radio said on Monday.

Reuters correspondents in and around Gaza also report a relative absence of Israeli combat helicopters that could provide ground forces with close support - reflecting, possibly, Israel's fear of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that have been smuggled into Gaza from Libya since last year's civil war.

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Comments (4)
Brazilian1 wrote:
Dear Dan Williams

Reuters is finally having a serious approach on Hamas rocket fire. Thanks.

Suggestion of issues that could make another good statistic summary:

How many fake photos and reports publicized by Hamas and their advocates has been proven fake?

????????????????????????????????????????

A few clues:

1. John Donnison from BBC retweeted dramatic photo of two children wounded in war without making any effort to verify the photo’s authenticity. Turns out the children were wounded in Syria and the photo first appeared Oct. 28. He later apologized for the retweet…

2. BBC News refused to acknowledge misleading its audience with fake footage of wounded Palestinians. Almost as soon as Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense, the Pallywood machine cranked into gear, creating fake images of Palestinians being evacuated after an Israeli strike. The footage appeared on BBC and CNN reports on the fighting. CNN took steps after the fact to verify the footage with Reuters, which distributed it. And after failing to get a satisfactory answer, removed the footage and issued an apology. The BBC, however, stood by the footage, claiming that the footage it ran was an edit from a longer reel. The footage that appeared on the site, however, bore all of trademarks of similar attempts to fake footage on the day of the Mohammed al-Dura incident.

3. Clayton Swisher, from Al-Jazeera, tweeted that Palestinian rocket attacks at Israeli civilians were legal under the laws of war. In fact, if there is one aim to restricting what can and can’t be done during wartime, it is to protect the lives of civilians.

4. Palestinian Propagandists stooped to new lows in disinformation by exploiting wounded babies. One of fastest spreading images of the conflict showed a dead girl in the arms of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The only problem was that the girl wasn’t killed by Israel, but rather by an errant rocket fired by Haniyeh’s own organization. But that’s not all. Not content to spread pictures of Palestinian children, propagandists filled Twitter and Facebook with images of an Israeli child wounded by Palestinian rockets – claiming it was a Palestinian girl wounded by Israeli attacks. Then there is the abundance of images of Syrian children exploited yet again as Palestinian. At least the Syrian conflict is finally getting some attention.

Best,

Nov 19, 2012 11:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
So Brazillian: Accoding to you and your fallacial reasoning no civilians died? And if reuters/BBC are wrong then where is your information been coming from? You guys disgust me, theres alway a contortion of history facts and some convoluted stories that you come up with, in any case it is what is it, as they say. No doubt there is so much anti semetism in this world. Instead of reaching out to others you alway have your own agendas, why????????

Nov 19, 2012 12:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Brazilian1 wrote:
Hi politicaljunkie

Have I written anywhere in my post that no civilians have died? Perhaps you should read it again.

Now, in relation to the sources for classifying the information mentioned above as fake, here you go:

1. John Donnison from BBC himself, who later apologized for his tweet.
2. CNN, which took steps to verify the veracity of the footage with Reuters and, since it did not receive a satisfactory answer, removed the footage from its page.
3. We don’t need other sources to counter Clayton Swisher’s claims because they are false in themselves.
4. Experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday.

Now if you think that justifiable reasons for anti-semitic hatred exist, then you are…

I will leave the sentence unfinished so that you can medidate on an appropriate ending.

Cheers.

Nov 19, 2012 1:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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