The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has acquired new, more powerful rockets that could severely threaten Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported Tuesday.
The rockets carry hundreds of kilograms of explosive material and have a short range of a few kilometers, similar to the range of mortar shells, according to an assessment by the Israeli military. While the Iron Dome anti-missile system can shoot down short-range projectiles, it is not as effective against mortar shells and rockets with more limited ranges.
Hamas is believed to have manufactured dozens of these rockets since its 2014 war against Israel.
Last week, Israel’s internal security agency announced that Hamas was seeking advanced targeting software in order to render their rockets more accurate. The Israel Defense Forces assessed in February that Hamas had succeeded in building 15 tunnels into Israel.
Although the IDF discovered and destroyed at least 34 tunnels during the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas has been pouring resources into rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. The group is believed to spend some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on tunnel construction and dig around six miles of tunnels every month. A senior IDF official recently told Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to pre-war levels.
Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terrorist infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters last May that the tunnels were a sign that Hamas is preparing for another war against Israel. “They definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels,” he said.
Hamas killed several Israeli soldiers in 2014 through its use of cross-border tunnels. The IDF explained at the time that Hamas intended to use the tunnels “to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.”
Israel began constructing a $530 million underground barrier along its border with Gaza in September to prevent more Hamas tunnels from breaching Israeli territory. IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot described the barrier as “the largest project” ever undertaken in Israel’s military history.
Veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel assessed last month that Hamas was fully capable of initiating attacks against Israeli communities near the Gaza border using its network of tunnels.
[ Photo: SalimRMAF / YouTube ]