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Israel: Gaza rockets can reach metro Tel Aviv

Hamas militants in Gaza have successfully test-fired an Iranian rocket able to reach Israel's largest urban center, the country's military intelligence chief said on Tuesday.

world Updated: Nov 03, 2009 18:37 IST

Hamas militants in Gaza have successfully test-fired an Iranian rocket able to reach Israel's largest urban center, the country's military intelligence chief said on Tuesday. Major General Amos Yadlin told parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee that the rocket could fly 37 miles (60 kilometers), and strike metropolitan Tel Aviv, Israeli media reported.

Until now, rockets fired from Gaza have reached up to 25 miles (40 kilometers), putting one-eighth of Israel's population within rocket range.

Yadlin said the rocket was fired in recent days, but no further details were immediately available from his testimony before the closed session.

Defense officials say Palestinian militants in Gaza generally test-fire rockets into the Mediterranean Sea.

It was not clear whether the rocket actually flew 37 miles (60 kilometers), or why Yadlin described the rocket as being of Iranian origin.

Israeli ballistics experts have said paint, tool work and Latin lettering on other rocket fragments point to Iranian origins. But the military has not publicly released clear evidence proving Iranian involvement.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, had no comment on Yadlin's testimony.

Israel launched a bruising war against Gaza militants last winter to quash rocket and mortar fire that had bombarded southern Israeli communities for eight years.

Although the attacks have decreased dramatically _ from 3,300 rockets and mortars fired in 2008 to 250 so far this year _ Israeli officials say weapons continue to reach militants through tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt.

Media cited Yadlin as saying that militants now had as many rockets as they did before the war, if not more. Defense officials have estimated militants had 3,000 rockets before the fighting began and fired or lost to Israeli airstrikes more than 1,000. Most of the Hamas rockets targeted at Israel are crude projectiles cobbled together in small metal shops. But militants also have fired more sophisticated, longer-range weapons, believed made from parts originating in Syria or Iran.

While rockets cannot match the firepower of Israel's military, they have killed 21 civilians and four security personnel over the past eight years and have been highly effective in terrorizing residents of Israel's southern communities.

Israel is also vulnerable to rocket fire from the north, where Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas have amassed tens of thousands of projectiles, some capable of reaching southern Israel. Israel fought a monthlong war with Hezbollah in 2006 after it captured two soldiers in a cross-border raid. Militants bombarded northern Israel with some 4,000 rockets during that conflict.