Thursday, 10 July 2014

Rockets, naval commandos boost Hamas arsenal


LONDON (AFP) -- Rockets capable of hitting deeper into Israel than ever before and naval commandos launching a beachhead assault show that Hamas has increased its capabilities with help from Iran and Syria, analysts said Wednesday.

The last Israeli offensive against Gaza was meant to have degraded the Palestinian militant group's capabilities but less than two years later, Hamas is firing new longer-range projectiles, they said.

An "unprecedented" attack by four Hamas militants who emerged from the sea to attack an Israeli military base shows the group is also trying to break the naval blockade of the coastal enclave.

"Hamas were very badly damaged by the Israeli defense forces back in 2012, but since that time they have been re-equipped significantly by Iran and also by weapons from Syria," Colonel Richard Kemp, of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London, told AFP.

The main weapon employed by Hamas and their armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, is an arsenal of unguided rockets.

Hamas was believed to have had 10,000 rockets before the 2012 confrontation, and it is unclear how many are left, but Firas Abi Ali of analysts Country Risk IHS said they still likely had "thousands".

As in 2012, they include Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles with a range of 75 kilometers and Gaza-built M75 rockets with a range of 80 kilometers -- both of which can reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

But Hamas has since acquired Syrian M-302 rockets which have a range of up to 160 kilometers.

On Tuesday, one of these hit the town of Hadera, 116 kilometers north of Gaza, while on Wednesday Israeli media reported that two had crashed into the sea near the port of Haifa, 165 kilometers north of Gaza, which if confirmed would be the furthest a rocket from Gaza has ever traveled. more

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