JERUSALEM, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Militants in Gaza
used an advanced Russian-designed missile against an Israeli tank this month, Israel's military chief said on Tuesday, underscoring how smuggled weaponry has improved Palestinian combat capabilities.
Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi's disclosures about the armour-piercing attack followed an Israeli newspaper report that the army planned to deploy the only tank battalion it has equipped with a new missile shield outside the Gaza Strip. On December 6, for the first time, a Kornet missile was fired and hit an IDF (Israel Defence Forces) tank, penetrating its armour, Ashkenazi told a closed-door parliamentary session, according to an official transcript released to the media.
Fortunately it did not explode within the tank. It is a heavy missile that is among the most dangerous that we have seen on this front and was not used even during the Lebanon war.
According to its manufacturer, KBP Instrument Design Bureau of Tula, Russia, the Kornet can puncture 1,200 mm (47-inch)-thick armour at ranges of up to 5.5 km (3.4 miles).
Its laser guidance is backed by thermal sights for easier night use. Its warhead has 10 kg (22 pounds) of high explosive.
There was no Palestinian claim of responsibility for the attack described by Ashkenazi, which a military spokesman said targeted a tank posted on the Gaza border. Israel
uses armour to cover foot patrols and incursions into Palestinian territory.
rulers, who generally hold sway over smaller armed factions there, declined comment on Ashkenazi's remarks. But Hamas, which fought a three-week war with Israel in 2008-2009, has made little secret of supplementing its mostly rudimentary arsenal with factory-made weapons bought on the black market and smuggled via tunnels from neighbouring Egypt.
Hamas has also modelled itself on Lebanon's Hezbollah
guerrillas, who held off a punishing Israeli offensive in 2006. Iranian-backed Hezbollah destroyed or disabled some three dozen tanks in that war, more than 10 percent of the total deployed. The experience shook Israel's confidence in its conventional military clout, and speeded its development of Trophy, a system mounted on tanks that spots and shoots down incoming missiles. Haaretz daily reported on Monday that Israel would next month begin deploying the 9th armoured battalion, the only one whose tanks have been fitted with Trophy, outside Gaza.
An Israeli battalion numbers around 36 tanks, while Trophy costs some $250,000. The relatively slow pace of the system's implementation reflects budget constraints as Israel prepares for a range of perceived threats from Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.
Asked about the Haaretz report, an Israeli military spokeswoman said only that the army planned to field-test a Trophy-equipped tank on Wednesday, using a disarmed missile.