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Anti-aircraft missiles in Gaza - Israeli minister

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, Sep 11 (Reuters) Palestinian militants have acquired anti-aircraft missiles that pose a new threat to Israeli aircraft flying over the Gaza Strip, an Israeli cabinet minister said in remarks published today.

''Terror organizations in the Gaza Strip have shoulder-held missiles that to our knowledge have not yet been used. This will make the (military's) mission much more complex,'' Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Israeli drones routinely overfly the Gaza Strip and the air force uses attack helicopters and fighter-bombers to strike against Palestinian militants.

''The issue (of the missiles) was discussed at yesterday's cabinet meeting,'' said a spokesman for the Public Security ministry, declining to provide information on their exact type.

The Israeli military has been pressing an offensive in the territory since the abduction of a soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25 by a group of militants, including members of the governing Islamic faction Hamas.

More than 200 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, have been killed in the Israeli operations.

Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, told parliament last month large quantities of anti-tank rockets and anti-aircraft missiles were being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt in a bid by local militants to emulate Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon.

Hizbollah surprised Israel with its stockpile of advanced rockets during a 34-day war that ended in a ceasefire on August. 14.

An Israeli army spokesman declined to comment on Dichter's remarks.

Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza a year ago after 38 years of occupation.


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