Israel Deploying Anti-Missile Batteries Near Tel Aviv, Report Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

(Editor's note: Hizballah said it fired a longer-range missile into the Israeli city of Afula on Friday -- a Khaibar-1, press reports said. Afula is further south than Haifa -- about 30 miles from the Israeli-Lebanon border -- and the new missile apparently has a larger warhead (220 pounds of explosives) than the Katyusha rockets -- a troubling development, but not necessarily surprising, since Hizballah has been threatening to strike deeper into Israel. It's clear that something new and different fell into a field near Afula on Friday, but Israeli officials have not yet commented on what type of missile it was. Police said as many as five may have fallen.)

Jerusalem ( ) - Israel is planning to deploy anti-missile batteries near Tel Aviv to intercept any longer-range rocket that Hizballah may fire at Israel's second-largest city, state-run radio reported on Friday. The army would not confirm the report.

Israel developed its anti-missile system following the 1991 Gulf War, when it was hit by at least 39 Iraqi Scud missiles. It has not been used against the incoming Hizballah rockets because they fly too low.

Earlier this week, Michael Cardash, deputy head of the Israeli Police bomb disposal unit, told journalists in Haifa that Israel believes Hizballah possesses two long range Iranian-made missiles that it has not yet used: the Fajr-5 and the Zelzal.

The Fajr-5 has a range of 75 kilometers (45 miles) and is packed with some 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of explosives - more than twice the amount of explosives packed into some of the rockets that have landed in Israel so far.

The Zelzal has a range of 220 kilometers (132 miles). Its warhead carries some 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of explosives.

The Israeli Air Force bombed a truck last week believed to have been carrying Zelzal missiles.

The Lebanese Mediterranean city of Tyre, south of Beirut, is about 135 kilometers (81 miles) from the northern Tel Aviv. Other northern Israeli cities are even closer.

Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this week that the time had come to fire rockets further south than Haifa, which has been hit by scores of rockets in the last two weeks, killing at least nine people there.

The rocket attacks on northern Israel continued Friday. About 45 rockets had landed in northern Israeli communities by mid-afternoon. On Thursday, 110 rockets crashed into Israel. Nearly 1,600 have landed in Israel so far.

The Israeli Air Force carried out more than 180 aerial attacks against Hizballah targets on Thursday and early Friday, the army said.

One of the targets hit this week was described as Hizballah's missile command center in the city of Tyre. That center was responsible for the rocket attacks on Haifa, reports said.

In a week when Israel suffered heavy casualties - 13 soldiers and airmen died and dozens of others were wounded - an unnamed Israeli officer was quoted on Friday as saying that Israeli troops had killed some 200 Hizballah gunmen during the last 17 days of fighting.

Meanwhile, the army issued another warning to residents of several villages in southern Lebanon, urging them to vacate buildings by mid-morning on Friday and move northward or risk getting caught in an army operation. That indicates that Israel is not slowing down its military operations in the region.

"The objective of these warning is to minimize the risk to civilians in southern Lebanon, an area used by Hizballah terrorists who exploit the local population as human shields," the army said in a statement.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Thursday evening that Israel had "entered into an unavoidable war, and we must win it."

The Israeli government approved the army's request on Thursday to mobilize thousands of reserve forces but also indicated that it did not intend to broaden the ground war in southern Lebanon.

Peretz said the mobilization was intended to prepare Israel "for any possible development."

Further south, the army announced that its forces had left the northern Gaza Strip after a two-day operation "to stop the launching of rockets at Israel and to destroy the terror infrastructure in the region."

Several Kassam rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel on Friday. Two children were lightly wounded by shrapnel, the army said.

The army said that it had killed approximately 140 armed gunmen in Gaza since launching operation "Summer Rain" there at the end of June, following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit in a cross-border attack.

Palestinians have said that many civilians also have been killed in the Israeli raids. In both Lebanon and Gaza, Islamic militants mix with civilians to protect their lives and their weapons of war.

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