Iranian Control of Hamas Opens Gaza Strip to Iranian Surface Missiles
The missile in the photo with this article is the Luna-2 short-range ground-to-ground missile, known to NATO from Soviet times as FROG-7, which Iran has developed as its Zelzal-2/Mushak-200. In the hands of Iran’s Lebanon-based Revolutionary Guards, it has extended the Iranian-Hizballah’s missile range due south to Israel’s coastal cities of Haifa, Hadera and Netanya. The missile, its launchers and infrastructure are well-hidden in special storehouses in the port town of Sidon in the care of Revolutionary Guards specialist teams. A Lebanese urban center was chosen for their hiding places to reduce the weapon’s vulnerability to an Israeli air strike. With Tehran already issuing operational orders to the Palestinian Hamas fundamentalist terrorist group, it is only a question of time before these missiles are transferred to the Gaza Strip, so bringing southern Israel, Tel Aviv and the cities in between, such as Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Ashdod, within striking range.
This looming menace finally drove Shin Beit Director Avi Dichter and IDF chiefs this week to openly challenge prime minister Ariel Sharon’s plans for the removal of Israeli settlements and military units from the Gaza Strip in the framework of his disengagement blueprint.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, Zelzal-2/Mushak-200 is 8.3 meters long with an estimated range of between 100 and 400 km – effective most probably at 200 km. It is armed with a 600 kg warhead. Iran is known to have developed chemical and biological payloads but not to have located them in Lebanon. On the other hand, intelligence sources estimate that Syria has perfected the right chemical warheads for attachment to the Zelzal missiles deployed in Lebanon and they can be fitted within hours. These weapons may be delivered through the Palestinian gunrunning routes from Sinai into the Gaza Strip whenever the rulers of Iran and Syria so decide.
Israeli security chiefs fear that the Hizballah, aka Iran, is already shipping 240mm Katyusha and Iranian Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets across the Mediterranean to northern Sinai. Egyptian security authorities, who are similarly concerned by the heavy weaponry Iran is landing on their territory, are known to have seized one delivery of Katyusha 220mm upgraded to 240 mm before it was smuggled into the Gaza Strip. But there is no knowing how much was not intercepted before reaching destination.
In readiness for their post-disengagement schemes, Tehran and Damascus have ordered Hamas to veto any Egyptian or other programs for securing the Gaza Strip after Israel’s evacuation. The military and defense chiefs in both Israel and Egypt have concluded that the implementation of against Sharon’s evacuation plan will open the door wide to Gaza’s transformation into a second South Lebanon in the heart of Israel.
Sunday, September 19, debkafile discussed the controversy over a more immediate threat: Evacuation under fire.
The simmering argument between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Israel’s military chiefs over the feasibility of his evacuation plan came to a head at the Israeli cabinet meeting Sunday, September 19. Sharon, who failed to offer the traditional New Years’ greetings to the nation this year, finally admitted that which the military, security and police chiefs – as well as debkafile – have been saying for months: the unilateral evacuation of some 9,000 Israelis living in the Gaza Strip cannot be accomplished, if at all, without a substantial cost in military and civilian lives. Conditions on the ground, say these authorities, make disengagement unfeasible.
But the conclusion they elicited from the prime minister was unexpected: I am sticking to my disengagement guns and not budging one whit from my timetable, he told the ministers and army chiefs: it is up to the military to make it possible; they had better start preparing for evacuation under enemy fire.
As reported previously by debkafile, the Palestinians are in the midst of massive preparations, including training special operations units and procurement of fresh supplies of upgraded weapons, for hammering the evacuating forces and Gush Katif evacuees and making the operation a bloodbath. Egypt has virtually retired from its post-disengagement security role in the Gaza Strip and is only half-heartedly blocking Palestinian arms supplies through Sinai.
Until now, Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz said that if the evacuation cannot be accomplished without an unacceptable level of bloodshed, then it will not be implemented at all. But now, Sharon appears determined to go forward regardless.
With the onus of a predictable disaster on their heads, Israel’s military and security chiefs explain: If this plan goes ahead, it will not be disengagement, but total war, a tornado of terrorist attacks, gunfire and missiles blasting the Gaza Strip, the western and southern Negev and Gush Katif. Instead of pulling back, the army will be forced to drive back into the large sections of the Gaza Strip controlled by Palestinians in order to subdue their war offensive. Many lives will be lost in these maneuvers.
Addressing the same cabinet meeting, Shin Beit director Avi Dichter limited his warning to a single issue: If Israel pulls out of the Philadelphi corridor on the Gaza Strip-Egyptian border it will open the door to an avalanche of advanced weapons the like of which was prevented from reaching the Palestinians in all four years of their warfare against Israel.