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Syrian Scud fired with chemical warhead

By Ze'ev Schiff Ha'aretz Military Editor

Syria recently test-fired a chemical warhead on board a Scud B ballistic missile as part of a periodic exercise program. The missile used in the test 10 days ago has a range of 300 kilometers and normally carries a conventional warhead.

During Syria's periodic tests, its missile crews try to incorporate new tactics or technologies. The previous test in September 2000 was of a more advanced Scud model with a longer range.

Both missile tests were picked up by Israel's Green Pine radar, which commands and controls the new Arrow anti-ballistic missile system.

Recent weeks have been especially crowded with ballistic missile testing in the Middle East. In addition to the Syrian tests, foreign sources - the first being the London based Al-Hayat - reported that Israel test-fired a Jericho 2 ballistic missile. In Israel no official comment on the reported test was available.

In April 2000 the U.S. announced that an Israeli ballistic missile test had been tracked by both satellite and on the radar of an Aegis warship. The Pentagon said the missile landed in the Mediterranean several kilometers away from its ship.

The Al-Hayat report gave the range of the missile during the April 2000 test as 1,500 km. If so, that would put the majority of Israel's strategic targets in the region within range of its ballistic missile capability.

In the U.S. report on the test, the range was set at 1,300 kilometers. Either way it can be assumed that the range could be extended by several hundred kilometers.

There are mixed reports about missile developments in Iran. Two out of three tests of the Shihab 3 ballistic missile failed, but these surface-to-surface weapons may be considered operational. Its range is believed to be about 1,300 kilometers, enabling Tehran to target all of Israel. At this stage the missile can carry conventional or chemical warheads.

It also appears that development of the Shihab 4, whose range is estimated to exceed 2,000 km, has been put on hold.

Israeli sources believe this is a temporary hiatus which may originate in political considerations and pressure from the European Union and the U.S.

Following the collapse of international arms inspection in Iraq, it is expected that the regime of Saddam Hussein will renew its efforts to develop long range ballistic missiles.

These assessments received further credence lately with news of attempts by Iraq to buy several dozen missile engines in storage in the Ukraine.

Iraq retains several dozen missiles in hiding, more than the original estimates made by inspectors following the Gulf War in 1991.

Other countries in the region are also busy developing their ballistic missile capabilities. It was recently reported that Washington is applying heavy pressure on Egypt following information that Cairo is maintaining military links with North Korea and has bought missile parts from it.

Part of the American pressure stemmed from its own tense relationship with North Korea. Nonetheless, the fact is that Egypt is making efforts to develop new ballistic missile capabilities and increase the range and accuracy of the missiles already in its arsenal.

However, of greater immediate threat to Israel are the shorter range Iranian Fajr 5 rockets which Hezbollah has acquired and deployed in Lebanon. The rockets have a range of 75 km and a warhead of about 200 kg. Their deployment in such proximity to Israel is considered a grave development.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 13, 2001

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