Monday, January 05, 2009

Hamas May Be Using Chinese Rockets

New Hamas rockets pounding Israel are suspected of being sophisticated Chinese rockets with enough range to strike more than 25 miles into Israel and enough punch to add a brutal new dimension to the escalating violence, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman told reporters Sunday. Capt. Ishai David said that three-meter-long rockets with a range of 40 kilometers started landing in the Negev Desert region of Israel a week ago. The IDF is currently engaged in offensive operations in Gaza to wipe out Hamas missile sites bombarding Israeli cities with cascades of missiles. If the new missiles are positively identified as a Chinese 122 mm rocket called the WS-1, they represent a significant upgrade in Hamas capability, Israeli officials acknowledged. “Rockets that had not been in that radius entered the game in the past week,” David told reporters. Evidence gathered in craters from among more than 100 rockets fired in the Negev Desert since last Tuesday indicates at least some of them fit the technical characteristics of the rockets. One of them reportedly struck an empty schoolhouse 22 miles from a hidden launch site in northern Gaza, the IDF spokesperson said. “I am not an artillery man, not an expert, and am not aware of that particular number, but upgraded 122mm rockets with a range of 40 kilometers hit Beersheva” and two other cities in the past week, David said. Beersheva is the unofficial Israeli capital of the Negev Desert.Public intelligence sources say the Chinese WS-1 is a 122 mm rocket carrying up to a 45-pound warhead. It can travel twice as far as the so-called Iranian “Grad,” which is modified and enhanced in crude workshops in Gaza. The warhead can “potentially cause much greater damage” because it is filled with “metal pellets that can spread out across a radius of up to 100 meters from the point of impact,” according to Israel’s YnetNews website. Brig. General Abraham Ben David, the Deputy Commander of Israel’s Home Front Command, said the new missiles “stretch the limit” of Palestinian capability. A British publication, Defense Update, says the artillery rocket systems are employed by the People’s Republic of China Army and “widely exported to third world countries.” In the past Hamas relied on the ‘homemade’ Qasam or the Iranian-produced Grad rocket. This rocket can reach 11-12 miles into Israel. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has now placed all communities within 24 miles of the Gaza Strip under “special situation” regulations. According to The Jerusalem Post, the move means that the Israel Home Front Command “has the authority to issue binding regulations for the population in the area.” The Chinese rockets use both fin and spin stabilization to achieve high accuracy and low dispersion of multiple rockets groups, according to public military intelligence sources. The new rocket attacks have reached deeper into Israel than ever before, bringing an estimated 700,000 Israelis within rocket range, Israeli officials said.