The Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip can now launch rockets capable of reaching the Israeli metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said at a Jerusalem briefing.

“We know they have tried to, and have obtained missiles that reach 60 kilometers (37 miles),” Ayalon said today. “Tel Aviv and its vicinity are now under the range of Hamas.”

During Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza, which ended in January, the farthest rocket strike was some 40 kilometers into Israel, endangering southern cities such as Ashdod and Beersheba.

Since the three-week operation, Hamas has been able to replenish its stock of military equipment and explosives as well as upgrade its rocket capability, Ayalon said. Hamas is receiving support from Iran, which is using the Islamic movement to increase its influence in the region, he said.

Hamas recently successfully tested a rocket with a 60- kilometer range, Major General Amos Yadlin, chief of military intelligence, told a parliamentary committee in Jerusalem today, according to the YNet news Web site.

When reached for comment, Abu Obaida, spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, said: “We are not interested in responding to the Zionist intelligence reports. They can say whatever they want.”

In 2008, some 3,300 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel, according to the Israeli army. During the 22-day Gaza operation the number was 800, and since it concluded on Jan. 18 there have been 250 more, the army said.

The Hamas Ministry of Health in Gaza said that 1,450 Palestinians were killed during the military operation, while Israel puts the number at 1,166. The army said 13 Israelis died in the violence, and a total of 24 have been killed in rocket and mortar attacks since they started in 2001.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

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