- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials think Hezbollah has dozens of long-range missiles capable of reaching Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv, but say it needs permission from its chief sponsor, Iran, before firing them.

The missiles are among an estimated 11,500 to 13,000 rockets provided to the Lebanese militia by Syria and Iran, according to published Israeli estimates. They are reportedly under the direct control of some 200 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who are deployed alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Caches of long-range missiles were among the first targets struck when Israel began its air strikes in Lebanon last week in response to the cross-border kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, military sources have said.

Israeli officials quoted by the Associated Press said yesterday that at least one Iranian-made missile capable of reaching Tel Aviv was destroyed yesterday when an Israeli aircraft bombed a truck carrying several missiles.

Israel says most of Hezbollah’s missiles are made in Iran, a charge that the Tehran government rejects.

It is not clear how many long-range missiles have been destroyed or how many are left, but Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah apparently was referring to missile strikes into the heart of Israel when he spoke in a television broadcast Sunday of more “surprises” to come.

Hours earlier, Hezbollah rockets had killed eight railway workers in Haifa and struck other towns more than 25 miles inside Israel. About 1,000 missiles have been fired into Israel since Wednesday, including one that struck yesterday in the town of Atlit, about 35 miles south of the border, marking the Islamist militia’s deepest penetration to date.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, speaking Sunday on CNN, was the latest Israeli official to say Revolutionary Guard troops are in Lebanon helping Hezbollah.

The London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat yesterday quoted an Iranian military source close to the Revolutionary Guard leadership saying Iran has provided Hezbollah with C802 shore-to-ship missiles, which were copied from a Chinese design and used over the weekend to hit an Israeli ship, killing four seamen.

The newspaper said Hezbollah also has Fajr, Iran 130 and Shahin missiles with ranges of about 60 to 90 miles. The missile destroyed on the truck, shown in flames on Lebanese television yesterday, was identified as a Zelzal-2, an unguided missile with a range of up to 120 miles.

Israel’s main hope is that Tehran will decide for both tactical and geopolitical reasons not to permit Hezbollah to fire the long-range rockets.

“Hezbollah won’t fire their long-range missiles unless Iran gives permission,” said an unnamed senior Israeli official quoted by Israel Radio yesterday.

Iran is thought to regard the missiles as a deterrent against an Israeli air attack on its nuclear facilities. If the missiles were fired, the implicit threat of retaliation might become less effective psychologically.

Tehran must also weigh whether such an attack would add urgency to efforts by Western countries to freeze Iran’s nuclear development.

Many residents of northern Israel came to the Tel Aviv area to escape the missiles striking near their homes. They must now deal with the prospect that the missiles might follow them.

Israel’s Home Front Command on Sunday called on residents living between Tel Aviv and Haifa to be alert to the possibility that such attacks might now occur.

According to the announcement, an alarm will be sounded in the event of a long-range rocket launch, giving residents about one minute to get to shelter.

All homes built in Israel for more than a decade, including apartments, are required by law to have “reinforced rooms” where inhabitants can take shelter in times of emergency without having to leave for basement or neighborhood shelters.

“We are asking that residents be aware of where the reinforced rooms and bomb shelters are, so that if an alarm is sounded, they know where to go,” said a Home Front Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Yitzhak Shehem. “For now, residents of central Israel, which includes the Tel Aviv area, should carry on with their normal routines.”

People who are outside when an alarm goes off are advised to get into any nearby building or just to lie flat on the ground.

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