Israel announces development of new missile programme to boost ‘offence capabilities’
TUNIS - Israel has stated it is developing a new missile programme capable of striking targets anywhere within the Middle East.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement that state-owned arms manufacturer Israel Military Industries (IMI), fulfilling a contract worth “hundreds of millions of shekels,” would deliver “within a few years” an advanced integrated system “allowing precise hits by remote launching.”
Israel faces security challenges from throughout the region, including from Gaza and its borders with Syria and Lebanon. However, in describing Israel’s attempts to reach a settlement with Palestinian leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed his country’s relations with Arab states across the region.
“Many Arab countries now see Israel not as their enemy but as their indispensable ally in pushing back Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu told Lithuania’s LRT public broadcaster on August 27, the same day the new missile programme was announced.
Clashes between Iran and Israel in Syria have been increasing. Though Israel has avoided direct involvement in the Syrian civil war, it admitted to having carried out dozens of air strikes in Syria to halt what it claims are deliveries of advanced weaponry to Iran’s principal regional ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Israel has pledged to prevent Iran from becoming entrenched in Syria and is considered responsible for a series of unclaimed strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, responding to a security agreement between Syria and Iran, told Israeli public radio that an Israeli “response will be loud and clear.”
“We will not allow Iran to establish itself militarily in Syria,” Katz said. “We will react in Syria with all our might against any Iranian target that threatens Israel and if the Syrian army’s air defence intervenes against us, it will pay the price.”
The new missile programme is expected to significantly improve the ability of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to strike at targets from a distance at a low cost compared to other combat systems, the Defence Ministry said.
“We are purchasing and developing high-precision systems that bolster the IDF’s offence capabilities,” Lieberman said. He said some systems were in production and others were near the end of the research-and-development stage.
“The deal for the missile system, which. within a few years, will allow for coverage for every point in short and far ranges,” Lieberman said of the weapons, which will have a range of 30-150km.
Military experts cited by Agence France-Presse said Israel has several batteries of its Jericho ballistic missile system capable of delivering nuclear warheads. It also has anti-missile rocket systems.
The August 27 statement quoted IMI Chairman Yitzhak Aharonovich as saying the new system would “reflect the company’s technological capabilities, which specialise in the ability to fire accurately, to strike at a variety of ground targets.”