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ISRAEL: Appearance of new antitank weapon in Gaza raises concerns as border heats up

Kornet The Gaza-Israel border has been heating up in recent weeks, with an increasing number of incidents on the fence, and rocket and mortar fire from the strip into Israel sharply on the rise.

Alongside calculated retaliation including airstrikes on tunnels, militants and -- for the first time since the military operation known as Cast Lead nearly two years ago -- hitting Hamas targets, Israel is keeping a close eye on things and assessing the rationale for the recent escalation.

Most rocket fire is carried out not by Hamas but by smaller, more radical organizations in Gaza, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said this week, estimating that the smaller, more radical organizations opposing Hamas are trying to drag it into renewed conflict with Israel.

Hamas is testing Israel's responses and trying to create a margin for maneuver without instigating a major confrontation, writes the aptly named MESS Report (Middle East Security Survey). Commentators suggest Hamas has to allow others to blow off steam over the deadlocked Palestinian reconciliation talks as well as a prisoner exchange deal.

"The situation in the south is very fragile and explosive," Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the knesset Foreign Affairs and Security committee this week, noting that although military circles control the strip rather than politicians like Hamas Prime Minister Ismaeel Haniyeh, Israel holds Hamas responsible.

The Palestinian Authority is also watching. Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed concern that this could lead to a large-scale Israeli attack, which would only make matters worse.

Neither side wants much more but an increase in rocket attacks on civilians could ultimately challenge Israel. The general calm was the result of deterrence, says minister Dan Meridor, noting that deterrence requires maintenance.

A new factor could change the balance of deterrence, as well as the face of the next confrontation in Gaza. Ashkenazi told the parliamentary committee that two weeks ago that an Israeli Defense Forces tank had been hit by an advanced Kornet antitank missile, which penetrated the armor but didn't explode.  Advanced antitank weaponry could well force a rethinking of military strategy in a future engagement.

The Russian-made Kornets, along with other antitank weapons, had exposed an Israeli weakness -- both conceptual and practical -- during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Used frequently by Hezbollah, the guided missiles with a range of about 3 miles proved effective in protecting militia field combatants while halting armored advances, damaging tanks and occasionally turning them into deathtraps.

Israel had complained to Russia, which denied Hezbollah had up-to-date Russian weaponry.

Israel had underestimated Hezbollah's possession of these weapons, also perhaps their familiarity with the different types of protection on various armored vehicles. Israel adjusted its learning curve accordingly with new protection.  

The amored APS (Active Protection System) known as "Trophy," a joint Israeli-American development, uses radars and sensors to identify threats like antitank missiles, then releases special explosives to neutralize them. The system -- fitted on the Merkava 4, Israel's most advanced tank -- was recently tested with success and will be integrated into growing numbers of tanks in coming months. The tank that was hit in Gaza, according to the media, was one version older.

The Iranians and Syrians are involved in armament efforts on Israel's southern and northern fronts, Meridor said, and Israel is engaged in both overt and covert efforts to block these. In a letter to the United Nations complaining of the attacks, Israel also urged the Security Council to give "appropriate attention" to the smuggling of arms into Gaza.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Photo: The 9M133 Kornet antitank missile and launcher. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Video: The "Trophy" active protection system by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Via Youtube

Comments () | Archives (15)

Read the Hamas charter. These people do not want peace. Get real!

This will be used as a justification for the US to supply a more advanced tank, like the M1A1 Abrahms. When will Hamas learn that firing missiles into Israel will only get you pounded in retaliation. The West Bank and Gaza should cease all hostilities and govern themselves independently in peace. Anything less will only bring you death and destruction.

I found the tone of this report quite disturbing. I don't want to fall into the trap of repeating old, entrenched positions but I suggest that two points are fairly clear:-

Firstly, people in Gaza are trapped in appalling living conditions with no real hope for the future. Secondly, Israel has overwhelming military and economic superiority and, given the will, can enforce anything it wants in Gaza

Israel should not be trying to use its military superiority to further reinforce "deterrence" of people living in Gaza. Surely, it military and economic power should give it the confidence to enter into real peace talks which actually give everyone in the Middle East a stake in a peaceful future?

Merry Christmas!

PS it was probably a salesman's sample!!!

One guided anti-tank missle that doesn't explode carries a message. It telegraphs that commercial channels are open to such purchases, the borders are open to deliver the weapon, the supplier is willing, but wishes to remain anonymous, and the purchaser is willing and able to use it at will. Its an invitation and warning for Israel to re-arm as landing on an Israeli tank prior to a major conflict alerts them, as if the delivery of 100 French anti-tank missles to the Lebanese last week were not enough.

Rowdy; yet your friends "the israelis" have one of the strongest economies in the whole world and richest per capita income , that they need our annual aid not to mention the recent $30 billion Bush military aid package.

Antitank or antiaircraft or anything start with anti... are self defense battlefield armaments and have no use against civilian targets specially in fenced and fortified state of Israel, Israel cries over these weapons are akin to a wolf crying out loud why shepherds are using guard dogs to protect their sheeps!

It is obvious that the Palestinians suffer. It is more obvious that can’t find relief in this part of the Middle East .It is impressed that they have many, many, sympathizes in U.S especially in Los Angeles. It is fantastic idea to allow them to migrate to U.S. I sure the Americans will receive them kindly and warmly. Wonderful peoples are the Americans. They will be blended in the diversity of the society in U.S without difficulty.

Rowdy, These weapon were not purshased they are given to the pal to protect themselves, how come LA time never mentioned that Israel is the only county in the area with nuke since 70's or it's double standard

Live by the sword, died by the sword. Israel sends tanks into Gaza to crush homes, bystanders and peace activists and then is stupefied when Gazans beg, borrow or steal anti-tank weapons? What, they should just bow their heads and submit?

It is arousing interesting questions: what will happen in AMERICA when California and Los-Angeles will be Hispanic state? Will in U.S burst out civil war because of the tension between races? What will happen in the Middle East? Will Israel survive?

its funny how whenever palestinians lift a weapon to defend themselves makes the headlines. they should just accept that they do not have the right to live, only then there would be justice right

@rowdy
Not the Palestinians you fool. A fringed radical anti-colonialism group of freedom fighters.

The average Palestinian in Gaza is poor and suffering because he is in the middle of several conflicts not of his making: Hamas (funded by Shiite Iran) vs. Israel (and a few hidden Sunni supporters wanting to neutralize Iran). Hamas vs. Fatah for control of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Authority vs. Israel about the establishment of a new state. Hamas and more radial elements within Gaza fighting for control of Gaza. As elsewhere in the world, there is a gap between the governments and the people.

Sure, the Palestinians are poor and suffering. Yet they can afford these advanced weapons that cost tens of thousands of dollars?????


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