by Yaakov Lappin
Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
The IDF has refused to officially comment on reports that Palestinian terrorists fired a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile at an IAF helicopter over Gaza last week.
According to the report, which appeared in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday, the missile – identified as the low-altitude Strela SA-7 – missed its target. It was the first known attempt to bring down an IAF craft using advanced missiles in Gaza.
“Certainly, the threat of anti-aircraft missiles is a serious worry, but it won’t disrupt the air force’s activities over Gaza,” terrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer, of the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Jerusalem Post.
Schweitzer, who has served as consultant on counterterror strategies to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry, noted that the period of instability rocking the Middle East has allowed terrorists to smuggle strategic weapons into the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli security officials believe some of the weapons are being smuggled in to the region from Libya. Last year, ABC News reported on White House assessments that some 20,000 heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles were unaccounted for in Libya.
Similarly, there are concerns in Israel that Syrian military arms depots will be raided by jihadis and turned on Israeli targets in the future.
The SA-7 can reportedly travel at 1,800 kilometers per hour and approach moving targets using heat-sensitive sensors.
According to the report, military intelligence officials have for years suspected that Hamas is in possession of anti-aircraft weapons but that it has chosen not to use them until now.
Israel’s Elbit Systems defense producer introduced in 2011 a laser-based anti-missile shield for civilian planes and helicopters.
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