According to recent SOFREP reporting regarding Operation Protective Edge (currently ongoing since 8 July in Gaza, in case you missed it), the ability of Hamas to conduct such a large number of rocket attacks from Gaza is due largely in part to Iranian support of the Palestinian Islamic organization. Iranian support to Hamas has occurred for years, and is once again regaining strategic relevancy in Israel’s struggle to quell Hamas’ ability to completely threaten their way of life.
As a direct result of both technological and financial support from Tehran, Hamas militants have not only been successful in smuggling countless munitions into Gaza, but also in constructing rockets that provide them with an improved standoff capability against Israel.
This organic rocket construction provides Hamas with a guaranteed rocket supply, which enables them to reach deep into Israeli territory and closer to consistently disrupting the everyday lives of Israeli citizens, despite any disruptions in their original supply lines from Iran. A prime example of not only a domestic but international effect of Hamas rockets is the recent 24-hour FAA suspension of major US airline flights into Israel, which was announced earlier this week. (It must also be noted that at the time of this writing, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) estimates of Hamas rockets launched from Gaza stands at over 2,000 since 8 July alone.)
Whereas previous Hamas rocket models would max out at approximately twenty-five miles, improved rockets can now extend as far as ninety miles and possibly further, and therefore possess the capability to strike the majority of Israel, to include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and many other population centers. According to Israeli intelligence officials, subject matter experts, and the Iranians themselves, this capability is a direct result of Iranian support to Hamas.
As Israel pushed further into Gaza this past week, support from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) General Jafari called for a “continued fight against Israel and an expansion of resistance from Gaza to the West Bank.” This statement follows countless rockets fired at Israel and intensified combat between IDF troops and Hamas militants, as SOFREP previously reported, and includes various rocket models in Hamas’ arsenal, the deadliest being the M-302 rockets (weapon system profile available here). Israel is familiar with the M-302 rocket, having intercepted a shipment of the rockets in the Red Sea several months ago, as SOFREP previously reported.
Due to a combination of Israel’s extensive counter-smuggling operations and Hamas’ somewhat weak working relations with Iran (due to the Syrian war and budget conflicts), Hamas militants have also turned towards locally produced rocket systems, which have even undergone testing trials in the Mediterranean Sea. These rockets were developed by Hamas’ armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, who “took a decision to develop their locally produced rocket arsenal in light of the apathetic relations with Iran, which were not entirely cut. However, the deterioration became apparent in the financial and military fields, prompting al-Qassam Brigades to initiate a campaign that is well underway of local production to make up for the shortage caused by this deterioration.”
Aside from arms shipments and subject matter expertise regarding weapon system construction, Iranian financial support to Hamas was approximated at roughly 23,000,000 USD per month as of January 2014, a figure that provides a glimpse into the extent of Iranian influence in shaping desired outcomes in the region by proxy. While this funding estimate no longer holds the same weight due to somewhat fractured Iranian-Palestinian relations regarding opposing camps in the Syrian war, experts project that Iran will once again begin supplying more significant funding to Hamas given the ongoing IDF operations in Gaza.
In addition to countering Hamas’ ability to conduct standoff attacks by striking at the common points of origin used in Hamas’ operations (i.e. Shejaiya, Gaza, and other areas of interest, high volume of militant activity, etc.), Israel has also emphasized its intelligence collection and power-projection capabilities, which allow it to intercept any support destined for Hamas before it even reaches its shores. One relatively current example of these operations was a long-range raid of a munitions factory in Sudan believed to be supplying Hamas in October of 2012, an attack commonly attributed to Israeli pilots.
While Iranian support for Hamas is not a new concept given both the extensive reporting available on the topic and the historical relationship between the two actors, Iranian support to Hamas has once again proven itself a significant factor in the Israeli and Palestinian struggles for a peaceful solution. It remains to be seen how Operation Protective Edge will have mobilized Iranian interest in reinitiating more active support for Hamas once again.
Note: For additional background information regarding Iranian support to Hamas, we recommend this wealth of data.
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Feature image courtesy of Fox News.