Israeli concern at Hamas arms grab

Israel is increasingly concerned that sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry looted from Libya is making its way to Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli official has said.

“We have specific information that weapons from Libya are being smuggled into the Gaza Strip,” an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity. “We know that Hamas is eager to improve its capabilities, specifically anti-aircraft and anti-tank capabilities.”

“We are worried that Hamas could achieve capabilities that previously they have had only limited access to.”

Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, came into possession of the SA-7 surface-to-air missile last year, according to Israeli assessments, but officials believe that Gaza-based militants have obtained more sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry in recent months, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported. Officials have not provided evidence for their claims.

Nevertheless, the suggestion that more advanced weapons - such as the SA-18 or SA-24 Grinch missiles that could bring down a passenger plane - may have reached Gaza would significantly raise the threat to Israel posed by Gaza-based militants, who frequently fire rudimentary rockets into Israel, but rarely cause casualties.

Missiles such as the SA-24, hundreds of which have reportedly disappeared from Libya, could also pose a threat to Israeli air force planes and drones patrolling over Gaza’s airspace, but it is the threat to commercial aircraft that will potentially cause most concern. Israel is currently developing expensive anti-missile technology that could be fitted onto its civilian planes.

The US is increasingly concerned by reports of missing Libyan arms, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently promised an $11m million aid package to the Libyans that would include assistance in finding and destroying abandoned weapons, particularly the many surface-to-air missiles that are unaccounted for, in post-war Libya.

Early on in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, it was clear that poorly-guarded government munitions stores were being regularly raided by Libyan rebels for their own use or, as it is now thought, by smugglers intending to sell them on to external militant groups.

Egyptian officials confirmed recently that they had intercepted several groups of smugglers transporting Libyan weapons, including anti-aircraft missile launchers, overland towards the Egyptian border with Israel, the New York Times reported.

Israeli officials have voiced their concerns over security in the Sinai as post-revolutionary Egypt allowed smuggling by the Bedouin to flourish in the vast and relatively lawless area.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have so far fired mainly crude rockets and mortars that rarely, if ever, hit their target, although Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that Gaza-based militants have rockets capable of hitting the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv. A Grad rocket fired from Gaza landed harmlessly on Wednesday night, the first attack since a prisoner swap last week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'