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Magazine says Palestinians seeking missiles; no IDF comment

JERUSALEM, Dec. 9 (JTA) — The spokesman for the Israel Defense Force would not confirm a report published this week that Palestinian security officials are trying to obtain anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. The report, published in Time magazine, cited Israeli intelligence officials as saying that the Palestinians are attempting to beef up their arsenals in the wake of the riots that erupted in September, when Israel deployed tanks and helicopters. The missiles would give the Palestinians a stronger response should more fighting break out with Israel, according to Time. The Palestinians are forbidden to have missiles under the terms of the Oslo accords. The IDF spokesman, while refusing to comment on Israeli intelligence assessments, would say only that the army was prepared to handle any threat to Israeli soldiers and civilians. Palestinian security officials denied that the self-rule authority was smuggling weapons. But they did acknowledge having at least 12 missiles that were confiscated from Islamic extremists or donated by Islamic groups. The Time magazine report was widely covered by the Israeli media. The Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported that the missiles could lead to a confrontation far deadlier than the September rioting, when 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians were killed in three days of violence. The missiles are available not only from Islamic sources, the paper said, but could also be smuggled from Eastern Europe or from IDF bases.