The move comes at a time of rising violence along the Gaza border [AFP]

The Israeli army has said it will deploy tanks equipped with a miniature missile defence system near the Gaza border, in response to the use of tank-piercing missiles by Palestinian fighters.

Army officials alleged that Russian-made Kornet missiles are being fired on Israeli forces, and that they come from Iran, but provided no proof of these claims.

The officials spoke to the AP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Israeli military chief Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi told a closed-door parliamentary session on Tuesday that a Kornet missile had been fired at an Israeli tank for the first time earlier this month, puncturing the armoured vehicle.

The missile did not explode within the tank, he added. He went on to say that the Kornet missile is the "most dangerous that we have seen on this front". 

According to its manufacturer, KBP Instrument Design Bureau of Tula, Russia, the Kornet can puncture 1,200mm (47inch) thick armour at ranges of up to 5.5km. It is equipped with laser guidance and thermal sights, and its warhead has 10kg of high explosives.

There was no Palestinian claim of responsibility for the attack described by Lt-Gen Ashkenazi, which a military spokesman said targeted a tank posted on the Gaza border.

While Hamas declined comment on the allegation, it has made little secret of supplementing its limited arsenal with factory-made weapons bought on the black market and smuggled in through tunnels from neighbouring Egypt.

Israeli defence officials say that the military will now move dozens of tanks equipped with the Israeli-developed Trophy missile defence system, which detects incoming projectiles and shoots them down before they reach the tank.

The move comes at a time of increasing Israeli airstrikes along the Gaza border. Israel says that these are in retaliation for rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters.

Source: Agencies