JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Israeli defense officials have expressed concern at the recent smuggling of large quantities of advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles from Libya into the Gaza Strip. The operation was apparently initiated by Iran.
The shoulder-fired missiles, looted from military arsenals during the recent Libyan revolution, are of a much higher quality than the anti-aircraft missiles which Iran is known to have smuggled into Gaza in recent years.
The newer missiles represent a threat both to Israeli military aircraft as they patrol Gaza airspace and enter it to retaliate against terrorist attacks, as well as to civilian aircraft approaching Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat.
The IDF reported that Gaza terrorists had fired a missile unsuccessfully at an Israel Air Force attack helicopter on a raid on August 18.
The United States has also expressed concern at the increased arms smuggling to Gaza. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on a visit to Libya last week that the US would grant the new Libyan regime millions of dollars in aid in an attempt to fight the arms smuggling. The aid is intended to enable the Libyans to locate and destroy the anti-aircraft missiles before they can be sold to terrorists.