Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip may now have the ability to fire rockets with a range of 60km, putting Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centres at risk, senior Israeli officials said on Tuesday.
Amos Yadlin, the director of Israeli military intelligence, told a parliamentary committee that Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, had recently test-fired a rocket with a 60-km range. Until now, Gaza-based militants have only been able to strike targets within a 40-km radius.
The same claim was made by Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, who told journalists: “We know they have tried to, and have obtained missiles that reach 60km. Tel Aviv and its vicinity are now under the range of Hamas.”
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip refused to confirm or deny the Israeli announcements. A spokesman for the group said the Israeli claims were a “pretext” for a possible further attack on the Gaza Strip and were designed to draw attention from a recent UN inquiry alleging Israeli war crimes against Palestinians living in the territory.
Israel launched a three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip last year that left about 1,400 Palestinians dead. It said at the time that the bombardment and ground incursion were designed to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza onto nearby Israeli towns.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that militants had indeed test-fired rockets towards the Mediterranean Sea in recent weeks, but that it was impossible for assess how far the rockets had travelled