Hamas’s antitank strikes reveal the depth of Israel’s ‘powerful’ arsenal

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JERUSALEM – Early in Israel’s attack on Gaza, an antitank missile fired by Palestinian militants hit an armored personnel carrier, killing – by gunfire, concussion, shrapnel – at least nine Israeli soldiers.

That attack on October 31, on the northern edge of Gaza’s sands, represented the single largest group of Israeli casualties in the ground war. It also showed the evolution and expansion of the firepower of​​​​Hamas.

Where Israeli forces once faced stones and molotov cocktails thrown by Palestinians, they now face weapons such as laser-guided missiles and antitank weapons. Hamas has been “arming itself to the teeth,” said one military analyst.

The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, are now inside Gaza City, fighting Hamas above and below ground – among civilians, around hospitals, schools and mosques – in areas the IDF says is full of tunnels.

Inside Gaza’s tunnel network: Spaces for Hamas to attack, escape​​​​​​​​and regroup

In such close quarters, Hamas fighters have displayed some of their updated arsenal: a surprising number of shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenade launchers and antitank missiles, military experts say. Many of the weapons have been brought into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, land crossings and the sea in the past decade, from the spillover of wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan, and also on made by Iran and even North Korea.

Modifications of these weapons are also assembled with greater sophistication inside Gaza in underground factories.

Analysts say Israel has been closely monitoring the types of weapons Hamas has: modern sniper rifles, paragliders, RPGs, “magnetic bombs,” suicide attack drones , micro-subs, land mines, anti-tank missiles and the long-range rockets, which will now hit as far north as Haifa near the Lebanese border and as far south as Eilat on the Red Sea, although there is still not much certainty .

A month into the Gaza invasion, Israel’s border remains a mystery

Hamas and its fighters – an estimated force of 30,000 or more – are so well-armed and well-trained that its militias, designated as terrorist groups by the United States, are like “state forces, ” said Michael Milshtein, a former Palestinian leader. Division in the IDF and senior researcher at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.

Looking at the first two weeks of the ground attack, Milshtein said, “There is nothing new or surprising in the weapons themselves. The main surprise is the number. “

Milshtein said Israel is facing a “much more powerful Hamas.”

Although the United States has been calling for more “humanitarian pauses” – and requests for a cease-fire from regional powers – Israel shows no sign of stopping the offensive, as that his tanks surrounded several hospitals in northern Gaza. Friday and the medical facilities that were sheltering displaced people went up in flames.

Israel’s Army Radio reported that tanks surrounded several hospitals and ordered them to evacuate, which doctors have said would be impossible to do safely.

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence officer and founder of the Inside the Middle East Institute, said Israel will face “very challenging” conditions. “It’s a heavily armed enemy,” he said, “not a bunch of little kids running around with pistols.”

The use of large numbers of antitank units by Hamas is of particular concern to the Israeli forces – so much so that the IDF appears to be focusing its intelligence on finding targets for air and ground forces to send them from

Every few days, the IDF media office releases information about its troops targeting and killing Hamas antitank commanders. Hamas does not confirm the deaths of its personnel, making Israeli claims often impossible to independently verify.

But it is already clear that this war in Gaza – compared to fighting in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021 – is the deadliest.

Israeli bombing and ground attacks have killed more than 11,000 people, many of them women and children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. On October 7, Hamas attacked farming communities, military bases and a rave concert near the Gaza border, killing at least 1,200 Israelis and abducting another 240.

So far in the ground attack, 41 IDF soldiers have been killed in Gaza, the Israeli military said.

In the May 2021 war, especially between Hamas and Israel, Hamas antitank missile teams were able to launch strikes that killed military personnel and civilians – which were more effective than drone attacks, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.

“Hamas drones and rockets have been stopped,” he said. “Their understaffed midget subscribers have been suspended. Cross-border tunnel operators were detected.” But “their antitank forces came through and came to blows,” he said.

Antitank systems used by Hamas include the Bulsae-2, North Korea’s copy of the Soviet-era Fagot; the RPG-7, also Russian in origin; as well as a North Korean version known as the F-7, military analysts said.

Other systems seen in past Hamas videos include the Russian-style Kornet and Konkurs, as well as the Iranian Raad, which is a version of the Soviet Malyutka.

“Together this cocktail of foreign weapons can overwhelm even the most technologically advanced forces in an urban combat environment,” Taleblu said.

He said: “Expect more, not less, pressure on antitank weapons and antitank warfare by Hamas as the IDF moves further into Gaza.”

In the past ten years, many of the antitank weapons have been brought into Gaza, through the tunnels from Egypt’s Sinai desert into the Gaza Strip and through trucks traveling across the Rafah border. passing over Egypt, the observers said.

Yehoshua Kalisky, a weapons expert and senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the weapons can be disassembled and the individual parts hidden in food and aid containers.

Among Hamas’ antitank weapons, some are produced inside the Strip, such as the Tandem 85 warhead, said Amael Kotlarski, a senior analyst and weapons expert at the intelligence firm. protect Janes. These types of projectiles use two charges to penetrate modern military vehicles. These are Iran’s signature weapons that have been given to allied militants, such as Hamas, and have been used to devastating effect against US troops in Iraq.

Hamas’s propaganda arm has released several edited images of terrorists firing rockets and missiles at Israeli vehicles. Although the videos may show a fiery explosion, sometimes it is not clear whether the shots destroyed or damaged vehicles.

Israel has developed a defense to these weapons called the Cup active defense system, said Ryan Brobst of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. It works by using radar to track incoming weapons and then intercept them with its own defensive projectiles. It has been largely successful. However – as with Israel’s Iron Dome anti-aircraft missile barriers – the Cup system can be defeated by being overwhelmed by large numbers of projectiles or projectiles fired at close range , said Brobst.

In particular, Brobst said, the US Army acquired Cup systems for its Abrams tanks in 2019 and sent them to Europe.

Kalisky, an Israeli analyst, said that in the Sinai, Israel needed three divisions in the Israeli-Arab war in 1967 to defeat the Egyptian army in six days. Now the IDF has been using the same force for almost a month with very different results in Gaza.

“This is a different war. It’s a very difficult war,” he said. “They are equipped.”

Sudilovsky reported from Jerusalem and Nakashima and Horton of Washington. Hazem Balousha in Cairo contributed to this report.

Israel-Gaza war

Israeli tanks, amid explosions and falling shells, surrounded overcrowded hospitals in Gaza City on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “not trying to take over Gaza,” marking a shift in tone after his previous comments raised red flags in the Biden administration. Understand what is behind the Israel-Gaza war.

Hosts: Officials say Hamas terrorists kidnapped about 239 hostages in a coordinated attack. Four hostages have been released – two Americans and two Israelis – while families are holding out hope. One Israeli hostage who was released reported on the “spider web” of the Gaza tunnels she was in.

Humanitarian aid: The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said it has received more than 370 trucks with food, medicine and water in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing in Egypt. However, the PRCS said, there has not yet been permission to import fuel to power hospitals, water pumps, taxis and more.

Conflict between Israel and Palestine: The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has a complicated history, and its rulers have been at odds with the Palestinian Authority, the US-backed government in the United States. West Bank. Here is a timeline of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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