A rocket almost definitely fired by Hamas militants throughout their Oct. 7 assault on Israel struck an Israeli army base the place, specialists say, lots of the nation’s nuclear-capable missiles are based mostly, in keeping with a visible evaluation of the assault’s aftermath by The New York Occasions.
Whereas the missiles themselves weren’t hit, the rocket’s impression, on the Sdot Micha base in central Israel, sparked a hearth that approached missile storage services and different delicate weaponry.
Israel has by no means acknowledged the existence of its nuclear arsenal, although Israeli whistle-blowers, U.S. officers and satellite tv for pc imagery analysts all agree that the nation possesses a minimum of a small variety of nuclear weapons.
Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Info Challenge, instructed The Occasions that he estimates there are almost definitely 25 to 50 nuclear-capable Jericho missile launchers on the base. Based on specialists and declassified U.S. authorities paperwork, Israel’s Jericho missiles are geared up to hold nuclear warheads.
These warheads are almost definitely stored in a separate location away from the bottom and thus weren’t underneath menace throughout the assault, mentioned Mr. Kristensen, who has studied the bottom.
The beforehand unreported strike on Sdot Micha is the primary recognized occasion of Palestinian militants hitting a web site suspected of containing Israeli nuclear weaponry. It’s unclear in the event that they knew the specifics of what they have been focusing on, past the bottom merely being a army facility. Hamas, the group that fired nearly all of the rockets on Oct. 7, didn’t reply to requests for remark.
However the focusing on of one of the delicate army places in Israel exhibits that the scope of the Oct. 7 assaults might have been even better than beforehand recognized — and that rockets can penetrate the airspace round Israel’s carefully guarded strategic weapons.
The assault on the world round Sdot Micha concerned a sequence of rockets over a number of hours, in keeping with warning alarm knowledge. It’s unclear what number of rockets have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air protection system, or managed to slide by way of and hit the bottom along with the one discovered by The Occasions. In some circumstances across the nation on Oct. 7, Iron Dome grew to become overwhelmed by the quantity of incoming fireplace or ran out of interceptor missiles.
A spokesman for the Israel Protection Forces declined to touch upon The Occasions’s findings. Since Oct. 7, although, Israel seems to have acknowledged and responded to the specter of rocket assaults at Sdot Micha. Current satellite tv for pc photos present new earthen berms and boundaries have been constructed round army positions close to the rocket impression location, presumably to defend in opposition to shrapnel or blast particles from future assaults.
The Occasions first recognized the hearth attributable to the assault on Sdot Micha utilizing public NASA satellite tv for pc imagery for detecting wildfires. There has not been a hearth — from any trigger — of comparable magnitude on the base since a minimum of 2004.
Additional proof of the assault exists in publicly obtainable satellite tv for pc imagery, rocket alarm information and social media posts, which additionally revealed efforts to struggle the comb fireplace ignited by the fallen rocket.
The rocket struck throughout the confines of the bottom, positioned 25 miles northeast of Gaza and 15 miles west of Jerusalem, at round 10 a.m. It landed in a small ravine adjoining to a Jericho missile facility, a big radar system and a battery of air protection missiles. The explosion shortly began a hearth within the thick, dry vegetation.
Whereas The Occasions couldn’t verify if different rockets additionally struck the bottom, satellite tv for pc imagery captured at 10:30 a.m. exhibits the hearth close to the Jericho missiles was the one one on the bottom.
Extra satellite tv for pc photos taken within the hours after the strike captured the speedy unfold of the hearth and Israeli firefighters’ efforts to stem its development. At the least two firefighting plane and streaks of vivid pink fireplace retardant have been seen close to the hearth. The following day, a satellite tv for pc picture revealed that new roads and firebreaks had been lower by way of the woods to comprise the flames, which gave the impression to be extinguished.
Decker Eveleth, a researcher on the Middlebury Institute of Worldwide Research who analyzed the pictures, mentioned it appeared that “paths have been created by firefighting automobiles ensuring the hearth didn’t get close to the launchers.”
Based on a College of Maryland database monitoring assaults on nuclear services, there have been solely about 5 recognized strikes worldwide on bases with nuclear weapons up to now. However due to the inherent secrecy of nuclear weapons, the precise quantity might by no means be publicly recognized. Nonetheless, Gary Ackerman, one of many researchers who established the database, mentioned the Oct. 7 assault was distinctive. “This isn’t one thing that occurs daily,” he mentioned.
Hamas and different Palestinian militant teams usually fireplace rockets at Israeli cities and cities comparatively near Gaza. Certainly, they fired 1000’s of projectiles at these places on Oct. 7. On the rarer events that the teams fireplace longer-range rockets, they often goal Israeli cities farther from Gaza like Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion relatively than the army bases storing superior weaponry that, in some circumstances, are a lot nearer to Gaza.
The Sdot Micha base, in existence since 1962 and clearly seen on public satellite tv for pc imagery, occupies 1000’s of acres of rolling hills. Whereas rockets fired by militants within the Gaza Strip might be inaccurate, it’s unlikely Sdot Micha was hit by chance. There are nearly no different targets — apart from delicate army services — inside two miles of the rocket’s impression web site. There are additionally few vital, nonmilitary targets within the better area as an entire due to its sparse inhabitants.
Although the hearth burned roughly 40 acres on the base, weaponry and gear remained secure. The flames stopped about 1,000 ft from the closest suspected Jericho missile facility, however approached inside 400 ft of a giant radar system constructed on a hill on the base, in accordance a Occasions evaluation of satellite tv for pc imagery.
Mr. Kristensen noticed that, even when the hearth had reached the missiles, their underground, tunneled storage services have been constructed to face up to harm. Nonetheless, he famous the dangers inherent in a hearth of this measurement burning close to unstable gasoline and munition depots. “All types of issues can go flawed,” he mentioned.
Alexander Cardia and Scott Reinhard contributed manufacturing.