Iran could encounter difficulty in maintaining its military aid to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, according to a report issued by the Israel Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
“As opposed to Lebanon, however, Iran will face greater difficulties in supporting Hamas in the Gaza Strip once the dust settles,” the report titled “Hamas,” said. “That is because Iran has no direct access to the Gazan border – as opposed to good access to Lebanon though its wide-open border with Syria – and an arrangement may be reached at the end of the fighting that will lead to closer supervision along the Egypt-Gaza border.”
The report, in contrast to the assurances of the Israeli government, said Iran and Hamas, however, would overcome difficulties to renew the flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli intelligence center said Hamas has sought extended-range Iranian rockets to strike major cities in Israel.
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“As in the past, both Iran and Hamas are expected to be creative to overcome the difficulties and to ensure a renewed flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip, especially long-range rockets, which will renew the rocket threat and Hamas and Iran’s ability to threaten the million people living in Israel’s south,” the report said. “They also aspire to include new zones in the range of fire, up to at least [37 miles], i.e., Tel Aviv.”
The report said Iran has sent hundreds of M-21 Grad rockets, with ranges of between 15 and 30 miles.
Iran, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Intelligence Ministry, also received advanced Iranian anti-tank missiles and technology to produce the Shawaz improvised explosive device.
“The rockets with a [30 mile-] range Iran supplied to Hamas are apparently identical to those it supplied to Hezbollah and were fired during the second Lebanon war,” the report said. “Hamas now aspires to include other Israeli cities in its rocket range, including Tel Aviv.”
Hamas’ military buildup in the Gaza Strip has been directed by Hamas headquarters in Damascus, Syria, headed by Khaled Mashal, the report said.
The report said the buildup has focused on rockets and mortars and IEDs in an effort similar to that of Hezbollah in 2006. Hezbollah was said to have engaged in weapons smuggling for Hamas.
“Iran has also transmitted the technological know-how that enables Hamas to increase the range of the rockets it manufactures,” the report said. “In addition, standard rockets enable Hamas to increase its attack range and cause more accurate and greater destruction than its homemade rockets.”
In 2008, Hamas was said to have received at least $150 million from Tehran and was said to have received large quantities of the Grad rocket. In February, Hamas fired 18 such rockets toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
The report said the latest rocket contains a motor comprised of four sections; Iran modified the rocket specifically to enable its dismantling for smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.
“In the Middle East, there are some countries which manufacture such rockets, including Iran and Syria,” the report said. “In our assessment, Iran initiated the technological adaptation to make it easier to dismantle the rockets for smuggling into the Gaza Strip for Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.”
The report said the extended-range rocket reached a distance of 27 miles.
The intelligence center said the rockets were manufacturing in China and supplied to Hamas by Iran. In all, about 100 such rockets were fired during the 22-day Hamas-Israel war.
“They can reach a maximum range of 30 miles, and later the same type of rocket fell in the cities of Beersheba and Ashdod,” the report said.
The report said Iran has helped Hamas develop and manufacture every level of rocket and mortar capability.
Iran has also helped Hamas manufacture so-called explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), designed to penetrate steel. The EFPs, which contain advanced detonators, were meant to block any Israeli armored advance in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas was also said to have deployed the Raad anti-tank missile, an Iranian copy of the Soviet-origin Sagger, as well as the Konkurs, based on the AF-5. The report said Hamas also received anti-tank weapons with tandem warheads.
“Iran smuggled weapons to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip by sea, air and overland, through the Persian Gulf, Syria, the North African countries and the Horn of Africa,” the report said. “From Sinai they were smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels dug under the Egypt-Gaza border or overland when the border crossing was breached at the beginning of 2008. The tunnel industry flourished as soon as the lull arrangement went into effect in June 2008, and the Egyptian preventive actions were ineffective.”
Other intelligence sources have confirmed the Iranians have developed special rafts for landing missiles on the Gaza coast where they cannot be detected by Israeli radar.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com