JERUSALEM – A rocket fired at Israel by Palestinians earlier this month was made in Iran, an Israeli lawmaker and security officials said Tuesday.
The origins of the rocket, which hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon on Jan. 3, offered a further indication of ties between Gaza's militants and Iran's hard-line Islamic regime.
The military would not comment on the rocket's provenance at the time, but on Tuesday, Isaac Ben-Israel, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ruling Kadima party, said the projectile was manufactured by Iran, Israel's most bitter enemy.
Speaking at a press briefing, Ben-Israel, a retired Israeli air force general, estimated that Gaza militants had several such weapons in their arsenal, but "not many." Most of their projectiles are short-range rockets manufactured in Gaza.
Israeli security officials confirmed Tuesday that the rocket came from Iran. They could not immediately say if it was the first Iranian-made rocket to hit Israel.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release an official announcement to the press.
Gaza's Hamas rulers are known to have close ties with Iran. Two groups took responsibility for firing the rocket — Islamic Jihad, also tied to Iran, and a smaller faction allied with Hamas.
Palestinian rocket barrages have killed 12 Israelis in the past six years, and have caused widespread hardship for Israelis who live near Gaza. The rockets have drawn Israeli military operations that have killed scores of militants and civilians but have failed to put an end to the fire.
President Bush, traveling in the Middle East, reiterated U.S. claims that Iran supports militants "with training and lethal aid."
"Iran's role in fomenting violence has been exposed," Bush said.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has said the overall flow of weaponry from Iran into Iraq appears to be down. U.S. military officials have been saying for months that mainly Shiite Iran has been supplying roadside bombs to Shiite militias in Iraq, despite strong denials by Iran.