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Sh'ot / Puma

Puma is a Centurion MBT converted to APC. The result was a sleek vehicle with a low silhouette, reducing the silhouette of the vehicle and therefore increasing its survivability. Survivability was further enhanced by using third generation armor, which was denser than the previous kinds of armor used. The resulting vehicle had one major drawback, as there was no rear hatch for the infantry troops. As a result, the mounted troops had to egress over the roof and the top of the hull, exposing the troops to enemy fire. This was found to be a very important drawback, so much that the vehicle was judged unsuited for the APC (armored personnel carrier) role.

The IDF Combat Engineer Force had a requirement for a heavily protected vehicle to support their frontline tasks. It was decided to adapt the new vehicle to their task. The vehicle was named Puma, which is an acronym for Poretz Mokshim Handasati (minefield break through vehicle). The Puma's role is to provide protection and fire support for the Engineers as they clear paths through minefields. The main drawback of these vehicles was their lack of mobility and therefore, inability to support Merkava MBTs.

The Puma is capable of carrying and employing systems specified for attack and penetration, from bulldozers to bridge-makers, and systems for infiltrating mine fields. Among the systems enabling minefield infiltration is the "Ritsuf" system, one of the most advanced of its sort; it employs rockets which pave a path through a minefield. Additionally, there are many things which improve the survivability of the combat soldiers within the Puma. Notably, there is a fire-fighting system, a smoke generator, and a hazmat system which enables the Engineering forces to battle in areas contaminated by hazardous materials for extended periods of time.

The Israeli provided assurances about the use of UK-supplied equipment in the Occupied Territories (OTs) exported under previous Administrations. The UK Government looked into the issue in 2003 and was able to inform Parliament of the outcome of these inquiries. The only equipment that had been identified as being used by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in the OTs, and that can justifiably be regarded as constituting a breach of the assurances, was a combination of Puma and Nachpadon armoured personnel carriers (APCs). These are derivative APCs on a Centurion chassis, which therefore have a significant and recognisable UK content. Parliament was informed of this in Mr Bradshaw's reply to a parliamentary question from Mr Galloway on 11 March 2002.

In the view of the Blair Government the Israeli assurances did not cover equipment consisting of components exported by the UK to a third country, which components were then incorporated in that country into products for onward export. The Foreign Secretary's announcement of 8 July 2002 set out how the Government will approach licence applications for goods where it is understood that the goods are to be incorporated into products for onward export. The Blair Government re-emphasised current concerns about exporting arms to Israel that might be used against Palestinian targets, and that the UK policy on assessing Israeli export applications has not changed: the UK continued to assess export licence applications for the proposed export of controlled goods to Israel on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria.

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