The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has determined Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been directing rocket and other weapon shipments through both Asia and Africa. In a report, the institute said all shipments, overseen by Hamas headquarters in Damascus, Syria, ended in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
“The arms travel overland to Egypt, through a variety of routes that cross Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and South Africa and eventually meet in Sudan, where they are moved to Egypt’s Sinai desert,” the report, titled “Hamas Arms Smuggling: Egypt’s Challenge, said. “After the materiel enters the Sinai, it is transferred into Gaza via tunnels underneath the Philadelphi Corridor, the Gaza-Egypt border that runs through the city of Rafah.”
Yoram Cohen, the second-ranking official in the Israel Security Agency, and Matthew Levitt, a former FBI, authored the report, which was dated on Monday.
“…The arms-smuggling network is directed by Hamas offices in Damascus and aided by Iran’s [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)], which provides the majority of the weaponry,” the report said.
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Messrs. Cohen and Levitt said the IRGC has also sought to smuggle weapons to the Hamas regime through the Mediterranean Sea, and they said ships drop the weapons in barrels for retrieval by Palestinian fishermen.
“Less frequently, arms are moved to Gaza via the Mediterranean Sea,” the report said. “The weapons are deposited in waterproof barrels submerged below the surface and tied to buoys eventually retrieved by fishermen.”
The report said weapons smuggling marked a leading element in Hamas’ military strategy. The report said Egyptian security forces in the eastern Sinai, despite U.S. training and equipment, remain ineffective in stopping the intensification of the weapons flow or in prosecuting suspected smugglers.
“Egypt’s approach to countering Hamas’s extensive network of smuggling tunnels has been tentative, generally limited to exposing tunnel openings and seizing weapons arsenals inside the Sinai Peninsula,” the report said. “In most cases, following the exposure of a tunnel, Egyptian forces have either placed a guard at the mouth of the tunnel or blocked the tunnel entrance, rather than taking steps to demolish the tunnel completely. As such, smugglers have been able to employ these tunnels again after a short interval.”
In 2008, the report said, Hamas moved from deployment of its indigenous Qassam-class, short-range rockets to the Iranian variant of the Grad BM-21 rocket. The latter rocket, dismantled for transport through Hamas tunnels, was said to have a range of more than 14 miles and a warhead of up to 14 pounds.
“These Grads, an Iranian-produced version of the Chinese-designed rocket, increase the reach of Hamas into Israel, making them a sought-after commodity and well worth the effort and expense of smuggling them all the way from Iran,” the report said.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org