How Hamas Gets its Weapons

Israeli soldiers watch as an Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Ashdod 18 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Darren Whiteside)

By: Hassan Illeik

Published Monday, November 19, 2012

The war launched by Israel against the Gaza Strip and its resistance forces has been brutal on the military and intelligence levels, but Israel has not managed to completely shut down weapons supply lines into the Strip. The Palestinian resistance has even received a considerable amount of long-range missiles from Hezbollah in the past several days.

The flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip continues, according to sources familiar with the Palestinian resistance logistics, despite the ongoing Israeli assault on the Strip and Syria’s compromised role as a conduit for weapons.

As the conflict enters its sixth day, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard units specialized in smuggling weapons from Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Sudan, and other countries into the Gaza Strip are on high alert.

These weapons usually begin their journey in Iranian or Syrian ports. From there, they head to Sudan, where they are transported to the Sinai in Egypt and end up in Gaza.

But such units have other routes they can use to reach Gaza.

Sources say the communication lines between the Resistance in Lebanon and various groups in Gaza, especially Hamas remain open and active.

Resistance factions are currently assessing the damage inflicted on the long-range missile arsenals Israel claims to have destroyed in the raids following the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jaabari.

But it seems that the Palestinian resistance learned its lessons from the 2008 aggression against Gaza and the 2006 war on Lebanon, since a large number of ‘strategic’ arsenals are still safe.

Sources told Al-Akhbar that the focus is now on transporting large quantities of long-range missiles, considerable numbers of which have already reached the Strip since the beginning of the Israeli assault.

Recently, arms supplies to the Strip suffered a major setback following the ‘neutralization’ of Syria, which had become the major conduit for arming resistance factions after the second Intifada. Yet Iran and Hezbollah have managed to keep supply lines open, despite this complication.

The strategies for smuggling arms to occupied Palestine have evolved over time. The most notable development came in the 1990s, when Hezbollah decided to create a special unit for the operation.

At the time, weapons could only reach Gaza sporadically and in small amounts, due to the tightening of security in Jordan and Egypt. Even getting a light caliber mortar shell into the Strip was considered an achievement.

Hezbollah was able to increase the flow of weapons, but the Israeli military soon caught on to the new smuggling patterns, and succeeded in assassinating many of those involved, including Ali Dib (AKA Abu-Hassan Salameh), Ahmad Jibril (AKA Abu-Jihad), Ali Saleh, Ghaleb Awali, and Mohammad Suleiman, a Syrian army general, among others. Hamas members were also targeted inside Syria, which was home to Hamas headquarters before the Palestinian faction came out against the Syrian government’s violent reaction to the uprising there.

Israel’s last successful assassination of a Hamas member working on the transfer of weapons came in 2010, when Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed by Israeli intelligence at a five-star hotel in Dubai.

Even the 2008 assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus could be attributed, in part, to Israel’s war on the resistance network smuggling weapons to occupied Palestine.

Following the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2005, resistance factions began increasing their stockpile of weapons.

The biggest difficulty facing the importation of weapons were the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, which control the borders with Palestine.

Thus a communications channel connecting representatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Syrian army, Hezbollah, and Hamas was set up to coordinate the supply of arms. Additional channels included other Palestinian resistance factions, such as Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and some members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs and the Salaheddine brigades, as well as the PFLP-General Command.

Since 2005, the weapons transfer units have succeeded in sending numerous types of light and medium weapons, mortars, medium and long-range missiles, as well as several types of ammunition and materials that can be used to manufacture rockets and bombs.

They also worked on transferring hundreds of fighters from Gaza to Syria and Iran, where they were trained on military tactics and the use of special equipment such as anti-armor and anti-aircraft weaponry.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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