Hamas boosting anti-aircraft arsenal with looted Libyan missiles
The improved quality of anti-aircraft missiles held by Hamas in Gaza is increasingly worrying the Israeli defense establishment. Hamas recently managed to smuggle relatively advanced Russian missiles, which were looted from Libyan military warehouses, into the Gaza Strip. Israel is worried about the presence of the missiles, both because they curb the air force’s almost unlimited freedom of movement over Gaza today, and because of their possible use against civil aviation in Eilat.
Shoulder-fired anti-aicraft missiles have been smuggled into Gaza in recent years at Iran’s initiative. But the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime has enabled Hamas to bring in much higher quality missiles - and in much larger quantities.
Rings of smugglers utilized the riots in Libya to break into military storage facilities and steal large quantities of weapons, some of which have relatively advanced capabilities. The weapons were then sold to terrorist organizations, first and foremost to various Palestinian factions. It seems that extremist Islamist organizations in Somalia also bought large quantities of weapons.
The United States is also worried by the developments. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited Libya last week, announced the U.S. would grant the new Libyan regime millions of dollars in aid in an attempt to fight the arms smuggling. American experts expressed their fears in particular over the transfer of shoulder-launched missiles to terrorists, and said the aid was intended to allow the Libyans to locate where such weapons are stored - and destroy them.
There have been previous reports of the smuggling of Russian SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza. Now there are reports of more advanced missiles.
How long before they start firing these at civilian airplanes?