Skip to comments.Israel Acts To Halt Russian Missile Deal With Syria
Posted on 01/12/2005 6:08:07 PM PST by blam
Israel acts to halt Russian missile deal with Syria
By Inigo Gilmore in Jerusalem and Julius Strauss in Moscow
Israel was attempting yesterday to halt a weapons deal under which Russia agreed to supply Syria with advanced anti-aircraft missiles.
Israel fears the weapons may fall into the hands of Palestinian militants and may ask Washington to intervene to halt the sale of Igla SA18s to Damascus. The Israeli vice-premier, Shimon Peres, said: "We have enough problems on the ground with Syria and we don't need more problems from the sky."
The foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, stressed that Israel has cordial relations with Russia and hoped to resolve the matter.
The Igla SA18, which cost £130,000 each, is one of the most sophisticated shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles on the market. Military analysts say it is the weapon of choice for many militants because of its simplicity and in-built training system.
The successor to the shoulder-held Russian Sam7, which was used widely during the Vietnam War, the SA18 gives the user more time to fire the missile, has a greater range and can target any part of the aircraft, not only the heat-emitting rear section.
The SA18 can also cut through many western defences. It is resistant to most of the flares used to put anti-aircraft missiles off track.
Israeli officials, who said the deal was signed several days ago, are worried that the anti-aircraft missiles would reach the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas who have attacked Israel's northern border.
Richard Boucher, the US state department spokesman, said that America opposed the deal, saying: "We're against the sale of lethal military equipment to Syria, which is a state sponsor of terrorism. The Russians know about this policy."
The US could also be concerned they would reach Iraqi insurgents, analysts said.
The Russian daily news-paper Kommersant said the sale included Iskander-E missiles, which would hold most of Israel in Syria's range.
Syria has not been seen as a strategic threat to Israel since the collapse of its main patron, the Soviet Union.
Russia has been upgrading Syrian military equipment for years but has not sold the country new arms since 1990.
Syria and Iran back Hizbollah, whose guerrilla attacks ushered in the end of Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. Israel accuses Syria of backing Palestinian militant groups.
Hizbollah acknowledges helping groups waging a four-year-old uprising in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israel has launched several air strikes against militants in Syria in recent years. But Israeli media reported that what most annoyed President Bashar Assad of Syria was when Israeli fighter jets buzzed one of the palaces he was staying in.
Militants issued a challenge to the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday when they killed a Jewish settler and wounded three soldiers in Gaza.
Islamic Jihad said the raid, the first since Mr Abbas's landslide on Sunday, was a riposte to his calls to end the armed struggle in favour of non-violent means to achieve a Palestinian state.
Israeli soldiers also shot dead two wanted militants in its first raid since the vote for a successor to Yasser Arafat. At the urging of American-led mediators, Israel had suspended military action against militants to safeguard the election.
You'd think Israel would just quietly wait until the equipment is delivered, and make sure it never arrives. ;)
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