TEL AVIV — Israeli military sources said the Palestinian Authority is seeking to acquire medium-range rockets from Iran.
The sources said the PA has appealed to Iran and Hizbullah to ship either the Fajr-4 or Fajr-5 rocket to the Gaza Strip. The sources said the Hamas-led PA believes that the Fajr, smuggled from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, could help deter an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas badly wants to change the balance of power with Israel and believes that the Fajr could be the answer,” a military source said.
On Wednesday, the PA continued missile attacks against Ashkelon, the second largest city in southern Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. An enhanced Kassam-class, short-range missile slammed into downtown Ashkelon and eight people were treated for shock.
“The Palestinians are concerned about Israel’s steady incursion in the Gaza Strip,” the source said. “The Israeli attacks threaten to erode Palestinian capability, which Hamas cannot afford.”
Israeli military analyst Amir Oren said Hamas plans to target Israeli military bases and cities north of Ashkelon. Oren, regarded as having close ties to military intelligence, cited Ashdod and the Israeli Air Force base at Hatzor.
“Hamas has three goals in its rocket development plans: range, warhead and shape,” Oren wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz. “If the Palestinians manage to smuggle a few Fajr-type surface-to-surface rockets from Lebanon or Iran, they will be able to reach Tel Aviv.”
In 2006, Hizbullah acquired the Fajr-5, the sources said. The rocket was said to have a range of up to 200 kilometers, capable of striking Tel Aviv from the Lebanese border. The Fajr-4 was said to have a range of 75 kilometers.
The sources said Hamas leaders have been in close consultation with Iran and Hizbullah since the June 25 attack on an Israeli base near the Gaza Strip, which included the abduction of an Israeli soldier. They said Iranian and Syrian representatives have met Hamas leader Khaled Masha’al, based in Damascus, to discuss tactics in the war against Israel.
“Hizbullah has managed to smuggle the Grad [rocket] into the Gaza Strip,” a military source said. “There’s no reason why they won’t try to smuggle the Fajr as well.”