Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hamas Employs an Upgraded Rocket Arsenal

By firing rockets deep into Israeli territory, the militant Palestinian group Hamas has in recent days displayed an arsenal that has been upgraded with weapons parts smuggled into Gaza since it seized control of the territory 18 months ago, according to American and Israeli officials.

For Hamas, a group largely confined to a sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea, attacking Israeli cities with a rocket barrage has proved an effective strategy to reduce the advantage of Israel’s expensive arsenal of fighter jets and warships.

That strategy was used successfully by Hezbollah militants against Israel in Lebanon in 2006, although Hezbollah had access to missiles and rockets far more sophisticated than those being used by Hamas. Israeli officials said that Hamas was still relying on unguided rockets, rather than guided weapons like the Iranian-made C-802 cruise missile that Hezbollah used against an Israeli ship during the summer of 2006.

Still, the rockets fired by Hamas in the current fighting have flown farther and been more accurate than weapons used by the group in the past, the officials said. Some have flown nearly two dozen miles, destroying buildings in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Beersheba.

Hamas and other militant groups have lobbed thousands of rockets into Israel since 2001. The difference now, officials said, is that Hamas is using more of the imported Katyusha rockets, which have a longer range than the crude, homemade Qassam rockets it relied on in the past. Officials say the group has been emboldened to improve its arsenal since it routed its rival, Fatah, in 2007 and assumed control of Gaza.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters, said that Hamas appeared to have relied on a combination of black-market entrepreneurs and help from its longtime patrons Iran and Syria to procure rocket parts.

A senior Israeli military official said Israeli intelligence also believed that Hamas took advantage of a six-month truce with Israel to bolster its stockpiles.

You can read the rest of the article at this link: Rockets

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