DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 26, 2013, 11:11 AM (GMT+02:00)
The Palestinians are using a new weapon in their current campaign of terror against Israel. It is the Austrian single-shot Steyr 50 caliber sniper rifle which has an effective accurate range of up to 1,500 m. debkafile’s counter-terror sources report that Palestinian terrorist planners intend to expand its use in the hands of highly-trained marksmen to keep pace with deliveries by Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hizballah of the Iranian-made version of this assassin’s weapon to the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah has already tested the Steyr 50 on the Syrian battlefield for picking off rebel targets. Appreciating its effectiveness, the Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani recently ordered Hizballah to start smuggling these rifles into the Gaza Strip, presumably by sea. This new acquisition was sent over to reinvigorate the violent campaign waged against Israel by the radical Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and their allies.
According to our military sources, one of the newly-trained snipers murdered the 21-year old civilian Saleh Abu a-Tayyel Tuesday, Dec. 24, with a single deadly shot. He is a member of the local Popular Resistance Committees which functions under Hamas command. A scout belonging to the Iran-backed Jihad Islami helped him heft the rifle, which is 1.37 m long and weighs 12.5 kilos, into position.
IDF investigators are combing through recent records to find out if this was the first instance of a Palestinian sniper hit. They are taking a second look at the murder of the 20-year old IDF Master Sgt. Gal Koby on Sept. 22. He too died of a single shot while on guard at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The shooter and his weapon were never found.
The new features of the current wave of Palestinian anti-Israeli terror are disturbing Israel’s military chiefs: It is orchestrated from Istanbul and Gaza by a new command made up of released Palestinian prisoners; Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has not made the slightest effort to deploy his US-trained security forces to curb the rising violence; and finally the advent of snipers trained to kill with a single accurate bullet fired from a high-powered weapon.
To avoid this new peril, the IDF this week directed Israeli farmers to stop working their fields abutting on the Gaza Strip and draw back to a 1-kilometer radius from the border fence. The rifle is believed too heavy to plant just behind the fence. However, Israel has now been forced to accept a 1-kilometer deep no-go zone on its side of the border and keep it off-limits to civilians.
debkafile’s military sources disclose that due to the high importance Hamas attaches to its innovative tactics for accentuating Israel’s security predicaments, Muhammed Def, head of its military wing, has taken direct command of the chain of events expected to evolve from the murder of Saleh Abu a-Tayyel.
In 2005, the Austrian Steyr Mannlicher shipped 800 of these long-range bolt action anti-materiel rifles to Iran, causing US concern lest they find their way to Iraq for use against coalition forces.
Copies of the Austrian Steyr 50 made in Iran were indeed supplied to pro-Iran Iraqi Shiite clandestine groups then fighting the US. Today those groups are sending forces to Syria. There, the Steyr turned up first a year ago, used against Syrian rebels by snipers attached to Iranian special units.
Three months ago, Hizballah forces began using this sniper’s weapon extensively on the Syrian battlefield. Its transfer to Palestinian terrorists for use against Israeli targets may be seen as yet more deadly spillover from the Syrian war.