Iran denies supplying Fajr-5 rockets to Gaza militants-report

DUBAI Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:43am GMT

DUBAI Nov 18 (Reuters) - A senior Iranian lawmaker denied his country had supplied Palestinian Islamist militants in Gaza with missiles capable of hitting Israel's commercial centre, Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam television reported.

Israel began air strikes on Gaza on Wednesday, with the declared goal of deterring Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

Hamas' armed wing said on Saturday it had launched an Iranian-made Fajr-5 rocket at Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial centre, about 70 km (43 miles) north of Gaza, in the third rocket attack on the city since Wednesday.

Israeli police said Saturday's rocket was intercepted mid-air by an Israeli anti-missile battery and caused no casualties or damage.

Israel's enemy Iran, which supports and arms Hamas, has condemned the offensive begun by the Israel Defence Forces as "organised terrorism".

But Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said Israeli claims that Iran was supplying rockets were unfounded, according to a report posted on Al Alam's website on Saturday evening.

The militants were self-sufficient and in no need of weapons from outside their territory, he added, according to Al Alam.

With its 75 km (46 mile) range and a 175 kg (385 pound) warhead - powerful enough to shear through a concrete apartment block - the Fajr is a prestige weapon for Hamas, which is massively outgunned by Israel's technologically superior military.

By putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in reach of the Palestinians, the Fajrs are also potential strategic game-changers that could draw even fiercer Israeli attacks on Gaza.

The Israelis say they have destroyed around 20 of the rockets on the ground and only a few remain in the Gaza arsenals. (Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati and Mirna Sleiman in Dubai and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Andrew Heavens)