AFP reports that Israeli military intelligence has identified some of the rockets Hamas has been firing into Israel of late from Gaza as being of Iranian manufacture. In a significant escalation of the terrorist organization's rocket harassment of Israel, about a dozen of the rockets Hamas fired into Israel hit the city of Ashkelon (pop. 120,000) over the weekend. Ashkelon is 11 miles north of Gaza. The Iranian rockets in question are originally of Russian design. The Russian version, the BM-21 "Grad" ("Hail"), is a 122 mm rocket-artillery weapon, meant to be fired in volleys of about 40 from a truck-mounted launcher. The Iranians manufacture at least three versions (also truck-mounted), all of which have a range of about 12 and a half miles. If you have your map of Israel handy, a Grad rocket fired from Gaza could make it a little over half-way to Ashdod, up the coast from Gaza (that is, right to Ashkelon); or, if fired from the middle of the Gaza Strip, about half-way to Beersheba, in south-central Israel. The weapon can carry high explosive/fragmentation, chemical or incendiary warheads
In general. rocket-artillery of this type is less accurate than plain-old tube artillery, but it can drop lots of explosives in a target area in only a few minutes.
The appearance of the Iranian rockets in Gaza is ominous, on several levels. The Israelis are gradually being forced to become accustomed to bombardment by longer-range rockets, of a more sophisticated type than the home-made Qassams hitherto used by Hamas. There is no realistic way for the Israeli military or civil defense to distinguish -- prior to the explosion -- between a Qassam carrying homemade explosives and a 122-mm Grad carrying a chemical warhead, or military-grade explosive.
The appearance of these rockets is proof-positive, if any were needed, that the Iranians have the ability to smuggle heavy weapons into Gaza. Iran's client Hezbollah's already got a launch-pad in southern Lebanon -- we saw it in operation in 2006. Now, Israel's enemies (Iran at the back of them again) are developing a second rocket launching point in Gaza. Probably, heavier weapons will soon make their appearance, much as happened with Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is extremely unlikely the rockets came in by sea -- most likely they arrived over the Egyptian land border during the disturbances there, which doesn't say much that's good about the likely state of affairs across that border.
Can the Israelis really afford to sit quietly and allow the Iranians to work on their nuclear weapon ? I honestly don't see how. They either have to clear out Lebanon and Gaza, or they have to make sure the Iranians never get their nuke.
The Iranians are playing a very dangerous game. Do they understand that, or not ?