In this fourth war between Israel and Hamas leaders in Gaza, the Islamic militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, some hitting deeper into Israeli territory and with greater precision than ever before.
Unprecedented barrages reaching as far north as the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, coupled with drone launches and even an attempted submarine attack, have highlighted a local arsenal that has only grown. despite the strangulation of a 14-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade. .
“The scale of the (Hamas) bombing is much greater and the accuracy is much better in this conflict,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. “It’s shocking what they were able to do under a siege.”
Israel has argued that the blockade – which has caused serious hardship to more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza – is essential to prevent a build-up of Hamas weapons and cannot be lifted.
Here’s a look at how, under intense surveillance and tight restrictions, Hamas managed to amass its cache.
FROM RAW BOMBS TO LONG RANGE ROCKETS
Since the founding of Hamas in 1987, the group’s secret military wing – which operates alongside a more visible political organization – has grown from a small militia to what Israel describes as a “semi-organized army.”
In its early days, the group carried out murderous shootings and kidnappings of Israelis. He killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings during the Second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, which erupted in late 2000.
As the violence spread, the group began to produce crude “Qassam” rockets. Propelled in part by molten sugar, the projectiles reached only a few kilometers, flew savagely and caused little damage, often landing inside Gaza.
After Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas assembled a secret supply line between longtime bosses Iran and Syria, according to the IDF. Longer-range rockets, high explosives, metal and machinery flooded Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Experts say the rockets were shipped to Sudan, trucked across Egypt’s vast desert and smuggled through a maze of narrow tunnels beneath the Sinai Peninsula.
In 2007, when Hamas fighters pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and took control of the coastal strip, Israel and Egypt imposed their tight blockade.
According to the IDF, smuggling continued, gathering momentum after Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist leader and ally of Hamas, was elected president of Egypt in 2012 before being overthrown by the military Egyptian.
Gaza militants stocked up on foreign-made rockets with improved range, such as Katyushas and the Iran-supplied Fajr-5, which were used during the wars of 2008 and 2012.
AN OWNERSHIP INDUSTRY
After the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt cracked down and closed hundreds of smuggling tunnels. In response, Gaza’s local arms industry picked up.
“The Iranian narrative is that they started all missile production in Gaza and gave them the technical and knowledge base, but now the Palestinians are self-sufficient,” said Fabian Hinz, an independent missile security analyst at the United States. Middle East. “Today, most of the rockets we see are built in the country, often with creative techniques.”
In a September documentary broadcast by the Al-Jazeera satellite news network, rare footage showed Hamas militants assembling Iranian rockets with a range of up to 50 miles and warheads filled with 385 pounds of explosives . Hamas militants opened unexploded Israeli missiles in previous strikes to extract explosive material. They even salvaged old water pipes to reuse them as missile bodies.
To produce rockets, Hamas chemists and engineers mix propellant from fertilizers, oxidants and other ingredients in makeshift factories. Key contraband is still believed to be smuggled into Gaza through a handful of tunnels that remain in operation.
Hamas has publicly praised Iran for its help, which experts say now mainly takes the form of blueprints, engineering know-how, engine testing and other technical skills. The State Department reports that Iran provides $ 100 million a year to Palestinian armed groups.
THE ARSENAL ON DISPLAY
The IDF estimates that prior to the current round of fighting, Hamas had an arsenal of 7,000 rockets of varying ranges that could cover almost all of Israel, as well as 300 anti-tank missiles and 100 anti-aircraft missiles. It has also acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 militants, including 400 naval commandos.
In this latest war, Hamas unveiled new weapons like attack drones, unmanned underwater drones sent into the sea, and an unguided rocket called “Ayyash” with a range of 155 miles. Israel says these new systems were thwarted or failed to make direct strikes.
The IDF says its current operation has dealt a heavy blow to Hamas’s weapons research, storage and production facilities. But Israeli officials admit they have been unable to stop the constant barrage of rockets.
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Unlike guided missiles, rockets are inaccurate and the vast majority have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But by continuing to thwart Israel’s superior firepower, Hamas may have made its main point.
“Hamas is not aiming for the military destruction of Israel. Ultimately, the rockets are supposed to create leverage and rewrite the rules of the game,” Hinz said. “It’s psychological.”
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