Palestinian militants have fired more than 3,200 rockets at Israel in the latest round of hostilities, according to reports, most of which were the locally produced, short-range Qassams — named after the Hamas military wing and with a range of a mere six miles.
Costing anywhere from $300 to $800 apiece, the crude projectiles have unpredictable trajectories, frequently fall short of the border and are no match for the Israeli Iron Dome, which has an interception rate of about 90 percent, according to a New York Times report and the Israeli military.
Using know-how from Iran, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants scavenge parts for the homemade devices — an assortment of plumbing pipes from nearby Israeli settlements, parts from unexploded enemy ordnance and various other components, the newspaper reported.
Israeli missile experts Uzi Rubin, a defense engineer who formerly headed Israel’s Missile Defense Organization, and Tal Inbar, former head of the Fisher Institute’s space research center, told the Jerusalem Post that Iran delivers or pays for nearly all the rockets.
Inbar cited a December statement from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who said: “Most of the weapons, missiles and facilities that Palestinian resistance groups have in Gaza are supplied by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.
“The Islamic Republic used its diplomatic relationship with Sudan to establish a weapon factory for Gaza in Sudan,” Nasrallah added.
Inbar also cited an interview by Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh from May 2020 when he said: “I am particularly specifying the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has not faltered in supporting and funding the resistance financially, militarily and technically.”
According to Israeli intelligence cited by The Times, the militant groups have amassed about 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles of widely varying ranges. Though lacking in guidance systems, the terrorists have managed to improve their accuracy.
Most experts said the rockets used since last week featured technology used during the last major flare-up between the two sides in 2014 – though the way they were used may have changed, the Washington Post reported.
“My impression is that the rockets now used by the Palestinians are not different in technology but different in size to the ones used in 2014,” Rubin told the newspaper.
Medium-range rockets based on Iranian and Russian design, meanwhile, can reach targets up to 25 miles also are believed be produced inside Gaza, The Times reported.
And the longest-range rockets include the locally made M-75, which includes technology from Iran, and the J-80, named after famous Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jabari, who was killed during an Israeli airstrike in 2012.
Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaidah announced Thursday that the group had used a new rocket called “Ayyash 250” – with a range of over 150 miles — to strike near Tel Aviv, the Washington Post reported.
Fabian Hinz, an intelligence analyst who specializes in Middle East missiles, told the paper that although the militants appeared to have been trying to add precision guidance systems to their rockets, there is no evidence they have succeeded.
“There are some strikes that have hit their targets pretty well,” he told the outlet. “It could be that they are lucky shots.”
Hamas has acquired some of the rockets internationally, such as the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 from Iran and the M302 from Syria, though the militants have also managed to produce projectiles with ranges of almost 100 miles domestically with know-how from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hinz said.
Militants also used to smuggle medium- and longer-range rockets across the Egyptian border, but that route has virtually been sealed off since the country cracked down on the practice when President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi took power in 2013, according to the reports.
Ian Williams, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the recent rocket attacks also have revealed a larger Iranian influence on Hamas weapons program.“We’re seeing this in just the volume that Hamas is able to put up, the intensity of them, the sizes of the salvos, and the coordination of those salvos, which is greater than we’ve seen in the past,” Williams, who also is deputy director of the Missile Defense Project, told the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, a key issue is cost in the hostilities between Israel and Hamas about which side can outlast the other and who will appear more desperate for a ceasefire. The Jerusalem Post reported.
While the short-range Qassams cost under $1,000 each, the Israeli Iron Dome interceptors are estimated to cost at between $50,000 and $100,000 apiece – a price the Jewish state has concluded is well worth it, according to the paper.
Rubin, considered one of the fathers of Israeli missile defense, and Inbar told the outlet that the difference in cost is not significant enough to restrain Hamas.
And the experts added that they were confident Hamas has many more long-range rockets to fire on Tel Aviv and central Israel, with the proof being that at the end of every recent Gaza war, they fired anywhere they wanted.
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