DEBKAfile Reports: Overriding IDF and Shin Bet objections, Olmert approves arming Palestinian West Bank forces with 50 Russian APCs, 1000 rifles and 2 million bullets
November 21, 2007, 9:27 AM (GMT+02:00)
Olmert approves these Russian BTR armored personnel carriers for the Palestinians
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the armored personnel carriers which can carry 10 fighters were promised Mahmoud Abbas by Russian president Vladimir Putin. Whichever of the models supplied - the BTR-60PB, BTR-70 or BTR-80 – these combat vehicles are armed with turret heavy machine gun mounts designed to hit ground and low-flying air targets. The 14.5-mm large caliber KPVT machine guns and coaxial 7.62-mm PKT machine gun, with a traverse of 360 degrees, mounted on each turret, make this APC a highly mobile anti-air unit for attacking low-flying targets at a range of up to 2,000 meters.
DEBKAfile reports the IDF and security service fear their presence will seriously hamper Israel’s regular counter-terror activities with helicopter support, which have kept the country relatively secure in recent years by thwarting Palestinian suicide incursions and attacks.
Furthermore, there are grounds to expect the APCs will end up in terrorist hands, considering that Mahmoud Abbas’ own Fatah adherents continue to engage in terror against Israelis together with the radical Palestinian groups. Israelis living on the West Bank will now require anti-tank weapons for protection against enhanced Palestinian weaponry, as will the police contingents securing Israeli border areas.
Our military sources add that the Russian APCs have devices to protect its personnel from blast effects, nuclear radiation, bacteriologic agents and toxic chemicals. An OU-3GA3M searchlight provides illumination for night firing and six 3D6 smoke grenade launchers produce smoke screens for camouflage.
Even if one or two of its wheels are disabled, the BTR vehicle can keep going with the help of a centralized tire air control system. And even after being hit by an anti-tank mine, the vehicle can carry on fighting and travel for another 300 km before it stops.
DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources report that since his October interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has invested time and effort in this relationship with a view to contributing to greater US-Russian understanding. The objects are to draw Putin onto the side of a tough US stance on Iran’s nuclear program and enlist his influence for extricating Damascus from its pact with Tehran. This stratagem has failed. The Russian president is sticking to an independent policy on Iran, as he has with the Palestinians, both Abbas and the radical Hamas. He is therefore following through on his promise of 50 APCs to the Fatah leader.