A Times visual analysis found that a rocket launched from Gaza on Oct. 7 hit an Israeli military base believed to house nuclear-capable missiles, although it’s likely they were not in danger.
Riley Mellen, NYT Dec 4/12
Satellite imagery taken before and after an Oct. 7 rocket strike showed the sudden appearance of scorched earth at the Sdot Micha military base in central Israel.CreditCredit…The New York Times, Source: Planet Labs
Riley Mellen, a member of The Times’s Visual Investigations team, analyzed publicly available satellite imagery, rocket alarm data and social media posts to report this story.
A rocket most likely fired by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 attack on Israel struck an Israeli military base where, experts say, many of the country’s nuclear-capable missiles are based, according to a visual analysis of the attack’s aftermath by The New York Times.
While the missiles themselves weren’t hit, the rocket’s impact, at the Sdot Micha base in central Israel, sparked a fire that approached missile storage facilities and other sensitive weaponry.
Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear arsenal, though Israeli whistle-blowers, U.S. officials and satellite imagery analysts all agree that the country possesses at least a small number of nuclear weapons.
Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project, told The Times that he estimates there are most likely 25 to 50 nuclear-capable Jericho missile launchers at the base. According to experts and declassified U.S. government documents, Israel’s Jericho missiles are equipped to carry nuclear warheads.
Those warheads are most likely kept in a separate location away from the base and thus were not under threat during the attack, said Mr. Kristensen, who has studied the base.
The previously unreported strike on Sdot Micha is the first known instance of Palestinian militants hitting a site suspected of containing Israeli nuclear weaponry. It’s unclear if they knew the specifics of what they were targeting, beyond the base simply being a military facility. Hamas, the group that fired the majority of the rockets on Oct. 7, did not respond to requests for comment.
But the targeting of one of the most sensitive military locations in Israel shows that the scope of the Oct. 7 attacks may have been even greater than previously known — and that rockets can penetrate the airspace around Israel’s closely guarded strategic weapons.
The attack on the area around Sdot Micha involved a series of rockets over several hours, according to warning alarm data. It’s unclear how many rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, or managed to slip through and hit the base in addition to the one found by The Times. In some cases around the country on Oct. 7, Iron Dome became overwhelmed by the amount of incoming fire or ran out of interceptor missiles.
A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on The Times’s findings. Since Oct. 7, though, Israel appears to have recognized and responded to the threat of rocket attacks at Sdot Micha. Recent satellite images show new earthen berms and barriers have been built around military positions near the rocket impact location, presumably to defend against shrapnel or blast debris from future attacks.