Israel has known for six years that Hamas is holding anti-aircraft missiles in the Gaza Strip. Last week, the reports were proven true, when a “Strela” shoulder-fired missile was launched at an [Israeli] aircraft during an Air Force operation in the southern Gaza Strip.
For the first time since the outbreak of conflict with the Palestinians in the South [of Israel], an antiaircraft missile was fired from the Gaza Strip at an Israeli Air Force aircraft. The missile missed its target, and no one was injured.
Israel has known for six years that Hamas possesses anti-aircraft missiles. Those reports were proven correct last week. During an operation carried out the by the IAF in the Gaza area, a missile was fired at an aircraft from the Strip.
IAF officials reported a clear detection of the missile as a “Strela SA7,” which was fired from the southern Gaza Strip.
Army officials said that the likelihood of the missile being a Strela was high, but noted that it was also possible that a different type of shoulder-fired missile was fired.
The anti-aircraft missile layout in the Gaza Strip has grown significantly stronger since the fall of [Moammar] Gadhafi in Libya. Some 1,000 missiles disappeared from military stockpiles in Libya, some of which reached Sinai and the Gaza Strip. American forces tried to locate those missiles, but only found a few hundred.
Anti-aircraft missile fire was also detected last summer [Aug. 18], during a terrorist attack on Route 12 on the Egyptian border. Six Israelis were killed in that attack, including one fighter from the Yamam counterterrorism unit of the Israel police, Chief Warrant Officer Pascal Avrahami. In that attack, an anti-aircraft missile was fired from Sinai at an IAF attack helicopter, but missed its target.
A few years ago, the Palestinians tried to fire an advanced “Kornet” anti-tank missile at IAF helicopters that were landing on Israeli territory during an IDF operation in the Strip. Since then, there have been no known attempts at targeting Israeli planes from the ground. Even during Operation Cast Lead [December 2008], no anti-aircraft missiles were fired, nor were any such missiles seen.
Hamas’ decision to make use of anti-aircraft missiles against IAF planes reflects a desire to escalate activity against Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ relative restraint in the last few days, after the last string of killings carried out by Israel, is temporary, and stems from internal political considerations within the organization. Israeli officials believe that Hamas is prepared, and that it is likely to launch a massive barrage of rockets in a short amount of time, immediately after those internal affairs are finished. Meanwhile, new “Milan” anti-tank missiles, produced in Western Europe, have also been discovered in the Strip.