Israeli soldiers operating in northern Gaza Strip on November 11. Photo: IDF

In recent years, Hamas has continuously upgraded its arsenal, especially anti-tank systems, to hinder Israeli forces fighting in Gaza.

In the first days of Israel’s campaign to attack the Gaza Strip, a Hamas anti-tank missile hit an armored vehicle, killing at least 9 Israeli soldiers. Other armored vehicles in the convoy were also affected.

That was the attack that caused the greatest casualties to Israel in the campaign to respond to Hamas. It also shows the strength of the Palestinian armed group’s anti-tank arsenal.

Years ago, when Israeli forces launched small-scale operations into the Gaza Strip, Hamas members often responded with gasoline bombs and rocks. But now, Hamas has equipped itself with the best weapons possible, using both laser-guided missiles and anti-tank bullets to counter Israel’s overwhelming firepower.

Observers say that overall, Israel still has the advantage because they are one of the most technologically sophisticated armed forces in the world. However, in close-quarters battles in Gaza City, the strip’s largest metropolis, Hamas showed that its arsenal had been significantly upgraded.

Hamas possesses a large number of B-41 guns and anti-tank guided missiles, most of which have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip through a system of tunnels land and sea border gates over the past decade. These weapons most likely come from wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Sudan or are products produced by Iran.

Hamas is assembling many variations of these weapons in increasingly sophisticated underground factories in Gaza.

Analysts say Israel has closely monitored the types of weapons Hamas possesses, including modern sniper rifles, paragliders, anti-tank guns, magnetic mines, suicide drones, anti-tank missiles, Long-range rockets that can reach Haifa near the Lebanese border in the north or Eilat near the Red Sea in the south.

Michael Milshtein, a former IDF official and now a senior analyst at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center, said that Hamas, with about 30,000 members, is one of the best-armed and trained armed groups In the Middle East.

Milshtein said that when watching the first two weeks of Israel’s ground campaign, “there were no surprises about the type of weapons Hamas used, but there were surprises about the quantity they used.” This expert said Israel faces “a much stronger Hamas” than in previous clashes.

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official and founder of the nonprofit Inside the Middle East, also said that Tel Aviv would face “very challenging” conditions when fighting Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

“They are now well-equipped opponents, not a fledgling group with only rudimentary weapons,” Melamed said.

Hamas’s deployment of large numbers of “anti-tank groups” specializing in dealing with armored formations is so worrying to Israel that the IDF seems to be focusing on finding ways to use air force and ground forces to wipe out Surname.

Every few days, IDF media officials release information about Israeli forces killing the commanders of Hamas’s anti-tank units. Palestinian armed groups do not confirm casualties, making Israeli claims often difficult to verify independently.

Since the start of the ground campaign, the IDF has recorded 41 soldiers killed in Gaza. The Israeli military says it would have suffered heavier casualties if it had not spent the past decade improving its defenses.

During the conflict in May 2021, Hamas anti-tank cells were able to attack and cause casualties among Israeli soldiers, proving to be more effective than the rocket and UAV attacks the group usually conducts. Implementation, according to Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“Most of Hamas’s UAVs and rockets were intercepted by Israel, but the anti-tank teams delivered heavy blows to the opponent’s forces,” he said.

Anti-tank weapons deployed by Hamas include the Bulsae-2, a replica of the Soviet-era Fagot guided missile, the Russian-origin B-41, and a North Korean version known as the F-7, according to the media military analysis. Other systems that have appeared in previous Hamas videos include the Russian-style Konkurs, Kornet, and the Iranian Raad.

“These weapons can make it difficult for even the world’s most technologically advanced armies in urban fighting,” Taleblu said, adding that “Hamas will further increase its weapons and operations.” counter-tank as the IDF penetrates deeper into Gaza.”

In the past decade, many anti-tank weapons were smuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt’s Sinai desert or on trucks through the Rafah border crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border, according to analysts.

Yehoshua Kalisky, a weapons expert and senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that weapons could be disassembled into individual parts and hidden in food shipments, the institute said.

Among Hamas’s anti-tank weapons, some are produced inside the Gaza Strip, such as the Tandem 85 warhead, according to Amael Kotlarski, senior analyst and weapons expert at defense intelligence company Janes in the US.

These types of bullets can penetrate modern armored vehicles. They are Iran’s signature weapons supplied to armed groups such as Hamas and have been used against US soldiers in Iraq.

Israel has developed the Trophy active defense system to deal with these weapons, according to Ryan Brobst, a member of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The Trophy system uses radar to track incoming anti-tank warheads and launch interceptor rounds.

Most interceptions have been successful, but the Trophy system can still be defeated by attacks in large numbers or at close range.

Analyst Kalisky said that during the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israeli forces in Sinai needed three divisions to defeat the Egyptian army in 6 days. The IDF is using the same number of forces for nearly a month in Gaza, but has not been able to “crush” Hamas as they expected.

“This is a very different and difficult war because the opponent is equipped with a powerful arsenal,” he said.