stop metal tubes from turning into rockets By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Israeli soldier watches Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, as seen from a naval boat patrolling the Mediterranean Sea off Israel’s southern coast as Israel-Gaza fi
By Jonathan Saul, John Irish, Arshad Mohammed and Parisa Hafezi
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israel-Hamas conflict that ended in a ceasefire on Friday showed the Palestinian group’s ability to build an arsenal of homemade rockets largely with civilian materials and Iranian expertise, analysts and officials have said, a feat he can likely replicate. .
The low cost of these weapons and the need to rebuild Gaza leave Israel and the international community in a dilemma of how to meet the basic needs of Gazans while preventing ordinary items such as pipes, sugar and concrete from being used. used for military purposes.
Current and former officials see no easy answers, claiming that it is next to impossible to cordon off even a relatively small area like Gaza and prevent property in need of reconstruction from being turned into locally made rockets.
Hamas and the Palestinian militant Islamic Jihad group, both considered foreign terrorist organizations by Washington, have increased the quantity and quality of their rockets since Gaza’s last conflict with Israel in 2014.
“We were extremely surprised at the capabilities of Hamas this time around. They had long range rockets that they did not have before. This is all due to Iran,” a senior EU official said under cover of ‘anonymity.
Israel said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups fired about 4,360 rockets from Gaza during the conflict, of which about 680 did not reach the Gaza Strip. Israeli Iron Dome interceptors, activated against rockets that threatened its population centers, had a successful kill rate of around 90%, the military said.
He said 60 or 70 rockets were still hitting population centers, implying an accuracy rate of around 15 percent. Others fell in open areas, causing panic nonetheless and sending the Israelis in search of shelter as they flew overhead.
The majority of rockets, analysts said, were close-range, unsophisticated and homemade.
“They are extremely simple to make and they use metal tubes, metal pipes. They will often use, believe it or not, detritus from Israeli missiles,” said Daniel Benjamin, former US State Department coordinator for the process. fight against terrorism.
“It’s virtually impossible to make a place completely waterproof,” said Benjamin, now president of the American Academy in Berlin.
The latest Israel-Hamas hostilities were sparked on May 10 in part by Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites, and clashes with Palestinians. during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the group had developed its own expertise in rocket production and did not need help.
“Therefore, any attempt to tighten the blockade of Gaza to limit the capacity of the resistance will be worthless,” he told Reuters by telephone from Mauritania, where he is going.
Palestinian militant groups have been using rockets for years. Prior to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, its Gaza settlements were frequently the target of close-range mortar and rocket fire from neighboring Palestinian towns.
Rockets only became Hamas’ staple weapon after the military barrier that Israel began to build around and across the occupied West Bank in 2003 made it more difficult for suicide bombers and gunmen to enter Israel and to carry out attacks.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad smuggled factory missiles through Egypt’s Sinai until the 2013 ouster of Islamist Mohammed Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. After being replaced by the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cairo has largely choked this road by destroying tunnels to Gaza.
The Egyptian crackdown triggered what an Israeli official called a strategic shift on Hamas’s part to develop local rocket-making capabilities with help from Iran, both provided by Iranians visiting Gaza. and Gazans traveling abroad.
Now, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources, the guerrillas are using Iranian funding and instructions to build rockets inside Gaza that have a range of 200 km (125 miles) or more, some with warheads carrying hundreds of them. kilograms of TNT and shells.
An Iranian security official said Hamas now has at least three underground factories to produce rockets in Gaza.
In the final days of the conflict, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Al-Nakhala boasted of his group’s ability to improvise weapons from everyday materials.
“The silent world must know that our weapons, by which we are confronted with the most advanced arsenal produced by American industry, are water pipes that resistance engineers have turned into rockets that you see,” he said on Wednesday.
“CASES OF MONEY”
Money, in many ways, is not the problem.
Qatar, with Israel’s agreement, has provided Hamas with substantial funding in recent years, a few million dollars a month, mainly to pay administrative salaries, some of which can then be siphoned off.
“It’s not rocket science, so to speak. A guy from Qatar comes every month with his suitcases of money accompanied by Israeli soldiers to pay the Hamas administrative staff. It then goes away,” the senior EU official said.
An Iranian diplomat from the region said millions of dollars were handed over to Hamas officials almost every month, whether they were transported to Gaza or to neighboring countries.
“It doesn’t mean that the money always came from inside Iran. We have companies (in the region) that funded Hamas and it’s no secret,” the diplomat said. , speaking on condition of anonymity.
A Western official who closely follows Hamas’ activities said the group was able to operate investment portfolios worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Middle Eastern companies.
“It controls around 40 companies in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria which mainly deal with real estate and infrastructure,” the official said.
A second official said the group was also able to secure resources from supportive charities across Europe.
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that aid would be sent quickly to Gaza, but coordinated with the Palestinian Authority – the West-backed rival of Hamas in the occupied West Bank – “in a way that does not allow Hamas to simply rebuild its military arsenal. “.
It’s easier said than done.
This would likely require monitoring on the ground, and it is not clear whether Hamas would allow this or who could.
Dennis Ross, Washington’s former senior Israeli-Palestinian peace diplomat, said someone, possibly Egyptians and others, would need a physical presence in Gaza to inspect imported goods and monitor their usage.
“If Hamas says ‘no’ then you put the spotlight on them,” he said, adding that the militants could be put under pressure to say, “We would like to provide material to Gaza, but the Hamas will not allow it. “
An Israeli official was candid about the challenge.
“Someone has to find a better way to monitor what’s going on, how it’s supervised and what it’s for,” he said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in Jerusalem, John Irish in Paris, Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Stephen Farrell, Dan Williams (NYSE 🙂 and Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem, and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Written by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Daniel Wallis)