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Karine-A Redux: Saggers In Gaza

The IDF believes that Hamas may have Sagger anti-tank missiles successfully smuggled in through the Gaza border with Egypt, and in "especially large" number.

The IDF fears Hamas has succeeded in its efforts to smuggle Sagger-type missiles from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. It appears that the number of missiles is especially large. However, the mere fact that such a weapon may be in Hamas' hands will affect the way IDF vehicles operate in the Gaza Strip, if it is decided to embark on an extensive offensive operation.

In recent years there have been many attempts by militant organizations to smuggle anti-tank missiles into the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians managed to successfully upgrade the RPGs in their possession from locally produced types to military grade equipment. However, the Sagger is a significant advance that poses a serious threat to the IDF - not only to armored jeeps, but also to armored personnel carriers (APCs), and in some instances, also to tanks.

AT-3 Sagger Anti-Tank Missile
The Sagger anti-tank weapon is not as effective as the Kornet, the type believed to have been used in the Palestinian tunnel raid that resulted in the capture and continued captivity of IDF corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006. But it is a significant upgrade from the past weapons stocks held by Hamas and their cooperative network of Palestinian terrorists.

Saggers Captured Aboard Karine-A ShipIran is the likely originating source of the Sagger anti-tank weapons and would not be the first time they were sent to Gaza Postmarked Tehran. Numerous Saggers were among the 83 crates of weapons shipped from Iran and intercepted by Israeli SEALs before it could reach Gaza aboard the Karine-A. From a TIME magazine report in 2002:

Commandos from Israel's Navy SEALS unit, Shayetet 13, swooped down on the Karine A in international waters of the Red Sea on the night of Jan. 3, catching most of the 13 crew members asleep. The Israelis say the crew told them the weapons were loaded onto the Karine A from boats off the Iranian coast in an operation headed by Lebanese Hajj Bassem, an assistant to the notorious terrorist Imad Mughniyah. A leader of the Lebanese militia Hizballah, Mughniyah has close ties to Iran and is blamed by the Americans for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Israeli intelligence tells TIME the captured captain of the ship, Omar Akawi, a maritime adviser to the Palestinian Transportation Ministry, identified a photo of Bassem as that of the man who delivered the cargo. Akawi also confessed to Israeli interrogators that the weapons were intended for the P.A.

On the ship, the Israelis say, they found the weapons in 83 giant barrels, each 12-ft. long by 4-ft. wide. The barrels had dense air pockets at each end enabling them to float and adjustable valves so that they could hang just beneath the surface of the sea. The plan, the Israelis say, was for a frogman named Salaam as-Skandari, a Palestinian trained by Hajj Bassem, to guide them to the Gaza shore. As-Skandari, along with the rest of the crew, are in Israeli detention.

The Karine-A contained 83 12'×4' Iranian-made crates, sealed and designed to float just under the surface of the sea. Palestinian divers would enter the water from fishing boats after the crates were dumped by passing ships and guide them ashore. Most do not realize why the Israelis would fire on 'suspicious' fishing boats off the Gaza coast in the Mediterranean Sea. This is why.

For additional information on the 2002 intercept of the Iranian arms shipment aboard the Karine-A, including Sagger anti-tank missiles, see here and here.