How Hamas hoards weapons to attack Israel

Hamas’s weapons are transported from outside by tunnels and sea or are manufactured by this group from available raw materials.

During the coordinated attack on Israeli territory on October 7, Hamas armed forces launched about 5,000 rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); members of this group were also equipped with personal weapons and enough ammunition for raids.

The attack was launched from the Gaza Strip, an area of ​​365 square kilometers sandwiched between the Mediterranean, Israel and Egypt.

Tel Aviv and Cairo have imposed a strict blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas controlled the territory since 2007, leaving the strip of land virtually isolated from the rest of the world. Israel further tightened the blockade after the attack by Hamas last weekend.

This raises the question of how Hamas managed to accumulate such a huge amount of weapons for such a campaign in the context of being surrounded and blockaded for many years.

Analysts say Hamas’s main weapons supply will likely come from Iran, a country that has repeatedly publicly expressed support for the armed group. The annual World Factbook publication of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said that Hamas “received some military aid from Iran.” In contrast, many US officials said that this force was “supported by Tehran for a long time.”

Experts believe that Iranian weapons are brought to the Gaza Strip through a secret cross-border tunnel system or transported by sea across the Mediterranean. Some are transported as components, then reassembled into complete weapons after arriving.

“Hamas’s tunnel system is still very massive and complex, even though Israeli and Egyptian air strikes regularly damage it,” said Bilal Saab, an expert at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CSIS), headquartered in Washington, US, adding that Iran not only provided weapons directly to Hamas but also trained this force how to make weapons.

According to Charles Lister, an expert at the Middle East Institute (MEI), Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has trained Hamas to use modern weapons for over two decades.

“Hamas is part of Iran’s regional network. Regular training for Hamas is Tehran’s effort to professionalize proxy forces in the region,” Lister said.

Ali Baraka, a senior leader of Hamas in Lebanon, said it took Hamas two years to prepare for the attack on Israel, adding that Iran had provided “money and weapons” to the force. However, it did not say Tehran. Is it related to the attack on Israel last weekend?

Earlier this week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denied accusations that Iran was directly involved in Hamas’s plan to attack Israel but declared that the country would “continue to support the Gaza Strip.” The US and Israel also said there was no evidence that Tehran was directly involved in the attack.

A Palestinian uses an underground bunker system in the Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

A Palestinian uses an underground bunker system in the Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

Another source of weapons for Hamas may come from Afghanistan. Some reports say this armed force is using weapons provided by the Taliban, including weapons made by the US.

The White House previously admitted that a large amount of weapons produced by Washington fell into the hands of the Taliban after the country’s military withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Vice Chairman of the Russian Federal Security Council Dmitry Medvedev on October 9 accused Hamas of using weapons donated by the West to Ukraine to attack Israel, but Kyiv denied this.

In addition to guns and ammunition from outside, Hamas can also produce its own weapons. Experts say Hamas engineers could have used Iran’s knowledge to improve their weapons production capacity.

Senior leader Baraka said Hamas had built many weapons factories in the Gaza Strip. “We have factories on site to produce everything, including rockets with a range of 10-250 km. We also have factories to produce mortars, AK guns and bullets,” Baraka stated.

The Gaza Strip has no heavy industry that could support arms production. Instead, Hamas took advantage of what was left of the ruined structures caused by Israeli airstrikes as raw materials to make weapons.

“When the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip was destroyed after Israeli air strikes, the remaining items such as metal, steel, and electrical wires were taken to Hamas factories to be made into rocket launchers or explosive devices,” said Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in the US.

Alkhatib also said that Israel’s broken bombs and missiles would also be dismantled for explosives and other parts. “Israel has indirectly provided Hamas with raw materials that are strictly monitored or completely banned in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

It is unclear whether this source of weapons will be enough to equip Hamas members if Israel launches a major attack campaign on the Gaza Strip. Hamas claims they have 40,000 fighters based in Gaza and are ready to fight against Israel to the end.