Egypt uncovers Libyan SA-24 anti-air missiles and sea mines bound for Gaza
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 26, 2011, 2:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
Helped by highly sophisticated contraband weapons smuggled out of Libya, Iran and Hizballah are getting the Palestinian Hamas equipped for another round of hostilities with Israel. debkafile's military sources report that Sunday, Sept. 25, Egyptian security forces, acting on information from a Western intelligence source, homed in near Ismailia on a large half-empty buried cache of advanced SA-24 anti-air infrared missiles (a version of the US Stinger) stored there en route from Libya to Gaza.
The information came too late to block delivery; most of the crates were found empty of their contents of missiles and other military equipment which must already be on their way to Sinai or Gaza. Some of the empty containers were found to have contained Russian-made MDM-3 sea mines, of the type Muammar Qaddafi scattered around Libyan ports in May to keep NATO vessels at bay.
Our North African sources report that many of Qaddafi's weapons stores were seized by the rebels and their contents sold by some of the officers to the highest bidders.
Tripoli today is under the sway of several rival militias belonging to the rebel National Transitional Council. An oversight committee of American, British, French and Italian delegates is trying to track down the advanced weaponry which the rebels seized during the NATO-led advance into the capital on Aug. 21. They have been questioning the Libyan rebel officers placed in charge of the arms stores and Libyan weapons dealers for information.
The CIA agents on the committee are aware that Hizballah and Hamas purchasing missions armed with Iranian petrodollars established a presence some months ago in Benghazi, seat of the NTC which has not yet moved to Tripoli. Those agents elude discovery in the mayhem prevailing in rebel ranks and may be hiding in one of the rebel commands operating outside Benghazi.
But the NATO commission has managed to find out roughly what happens to the smuggled arms after they are spirited out of Tripoli, debkafile's counter-terror sources report. Some are bound for southern Libya and Niger, where Qaddafi loyalists holed up in the Sahel desert on the fringes of the Sahara take delivery: The second destination is Algeria for Al Qaeda in the Maghreb; and the third is the Gaza Strip through Egypt and Sinai.
The introduction of sophisticated anti-air infrared missiles and sea mines into areas abutting on Israel's land and sea borders has given its army chiefs and strategists a serious headache. The SA-24s would give the Hamas an anti-air capability on a par with that of the Hizballah and consists three elements:
- The SA-24s which are portable air defense missiles with a range of 5.2 kilometers, an operational ceiling of 3.5 kilometers and Mach 2.3 speed.
Depending mainly on visual scanning, they can also be fired at night and are effective against fighter planes, armored helicopters, drones and diverse surface-to surface missiles, including cruise missiles.
- SA-14 (Strela-3) has a small and very precise solid propellant guided missile as well as an improved system for overcoming countermeasures. Its range is 4.5 kilometers and operational ceiling 3 kilometers.
- The SA-7 (Strela-2) has a 3.6 kilometer range, operational ceiling from 15 meters to 1.5 kilometers and Mach 1.75.
Hamas is therefore armed with weapons capable of attacking high-, medium- and low-flying objects, including planes, helicopters and drones over and outside the Gaza Strip in southwest Israel including the port towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Sea mines if Hamas can sow them in eastern Mediterranean waters would severely impair the Israeli and Egyptian navies' freedom of navigation. There is the additional danger of mines drifting ashore.
Our military sources report that Iran, Hizballah and Hamas employ experts with specialist knowledge of deep Mediterranean currents. They use them for Iranian freighters to skirt Israel's naval blockade against the Gaza Strip and throw arms consignments overboard for Hizballah and Hamas to be carried ashore by currents.
Both radical terrorist groups are now in possession of a stock of Libyan sea mines which can be used with the help of these experts for striking precise locations on the Israeli coast..