Iranian sniper rifles. AK-47 assault rifles from China and Russia. North Korean- and Bulgarian-built rocket-propelled grenades. Anti-tank rockets secretly cobbled collectively in Gaza.
An Related Press evaluation of greater than 150 movies and photographs taken within the three months of fight since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 shock assault on Israel reveals the militant group has amassed a various patchwork arsenal of weapons from around the globe – a lot of it smuggled previous a 17-year blockade that was aimed toward stopping simply such a army buildup.
These weapons have proved lethal throughout weeks of intense city warfare in Gaza, the place Hamas fighters are usually armed solely with what they’ll carry and make use of hit-and-run ways towards lopsided Israeli benefits in arms and know-how. Hamas propaganda movies posted over the previous few weeks seem to point out the shootings of Israeli troopers recorded by way of the scopes of sniper rifles.
“We’re looking out in all places for weapons, for political assist, for cash,” Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad not too long ago stated in an interview with the AP, declining to debate particularly who has been offering its weapons or how they have been snuck into Gaza.
Consultants who reviewed the pictures for AP have been in a position to determine distinguishing options and markings that present the place most of the weapons wielded by Hamas fighters have been manufactured. However such an evaluation doesn’t present proof of whether or not they have been supplied by the governments of these international locations or bought in a thriving Center East black market, with weapons and elements listed on the market on social media in such war-torn international locations as Iraq, Libya and Syria.
What is evident, nevertheless, is that most of the photos present Hamas militants toting weapons that seem like comparatively new, proof the group has discovered methods of getting arms previous the air-and-sea blockade of the Gaza Strip — presumably by boat, by way of tunnels or hid in shipments of meals and different items.
“Nearly all of their arms are of Russian, Chinese language or Iranian origin, however North Korean weapons and people produced in former Warsaw Pact international locations are additionally current within the arsenal,” stated N.R. Jenzen-Jones, an knowledgeable in army arms who’s director of the Australian-based Armament Analysis Providers.
Regardless of the buildup, Israel maintains an enormous benefit, with a robust array of contemporary tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and an air power of U.S.-made fighter jets. Israel’s army says it has killed greater than 7,000 Hamas militants, in comparison with the deaths of at the very least 510 of its personal troopers, greater than 330 of whom have been killed in Hamas’ preliminary assault. The Well being Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says greater than 23,000 Palestinians have died within the combating, although it doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants.
Imagery reviewed by the AP confirmed a Hamas arsenal that includes weapons starting from small arms and machine weapons to shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and craft-produced anti-tank projectiles.
Among the many most distinctive is the outsized AM-50 Sayyad (Arabic for “hunter”), an Iranian-made a sniper rifle that fires a .50- caliber spherical highly effective sufficient to punch by way of as much as an inch of metal. It has beforehand been noticed on battlefields in Yemen, Syria, and within the arms of Shia militias in Iraq.
Hamas fighters have additionally been seen carrying an array of Soviet-era weapons which were copied and manufactured in Iran and China. They embrace variants of the Russian-designed 9M32 Strela, a conveyable heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile system.
Jenzen-Jones stated a grip inventory on one of many missile launchers a fighter was seen holding is distinctive to a variant manufactured in China and utilized by the Iranian army and its allies, together with Hezbollah in Lebanon, a gaggle carefully aligned with Hamas.
Weapons recovered from Hamas fighters by the Israel Protection Forces embrace what seem like Italian-designed TC/6 anti-tank mines. Nevertheless, Seán Moorhouse, a former British Military officer and explosive ordinance disposal knowledgeable, stated it too had been copied by Iran’s arms business.
The Israel Protection Forces and U.S. officers have lengthy accused Iran of supplying cash, coaching and weapons to Hamas and allied militants in Gaza, together with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Iranian representatives on the United Nations didn’t reply to emails from the AP about whether or not their authorities equipped weapons to Hamas, together with AM-50 Sayyad sniper rifles. Nevertheless, per week after AP sought remark, Hamas posted a video purporting to point out militants in Gaza utilizing machining tools to make their very own copies of the rifle.
Grasp gunsmith Don Fraley reviewed that Dec. 20 video and stated it might be almost inconceivable for Hamas to fabricate a secure and correct .50-caliber sniper rifle with the rudimentary tools proven.
“You’re going to must be a rock star at machine store work. And I didn’t see any of that,” stated Fraley, a former U.S. Military Particular Forces soldier and sniper for the Kentucky State Police. “These people are simply making an attempt to cowl their tracks.”
An Israeli army official aware of Hamas’ arsenal stated the group makes use of a mixture of smuggled “off-the-shelf” weaponry, together with AK-47s, RPGs and anti-aircraft missiles, in addition to a big assortment of home-grown weapons typically made with simply accessible civilian supplies.
For example, the official stated, the group makes use of lathes to form metallic into rockets and mortars, and suits them with explosives manufactured from fertilizers. Different home-made weapons embrace a launcher able to firing 14 rockets concurrently and the “Zuwari” drone, an explosives-laden plane that was used to strike Israeli statement towers and knock out cameras on Oct. 7.
“There’s a large army/protection business contained in the Gaza Strip,” stated the official, who spoke on situation of anonymity below army briefing guidelines.
The official stated a lot of the smuggled weapons are believed to have been introduced in by way of Egypt and are usually simple to buy and didn’t have to be equipped by the nation of origin.
One such weapon seen within the arms of Hamas fighters is a model of Chinese language machine weapons often known as the Sort 80, a mannequin that has additionally been copied by the Iranians and renamed because the PKM-T80.
Jonathan Ferguson, the curator of firearms on the Royal Armouries Museum in England, stated from what he might see from the photographs and movies, variations of the gun made in China and Iran have been so related as to be indistinguishable.
Ferguson was additionally in a position to determine a rocket-propelled grenade with marks displaying it was made in Bulgaria. AP beforehand reported Hamas used RPGs with a particular purple stripe indicating they have been made in North Korea.
Among the many extra refined Hamas home-grown weapons is a replica of a Russian anti-tank rocket referred to as the PG-7VR, which is particularly designed to defeat reactive-armor programs like these used on Israel’s Merkava Mark VI essential battle tanks. Such tanks are coated with explosive-filed plates that explode outwards to disrupt incoming projectiles.
In propaganda movies posted in October, masked militants are seen assembling a model of the Russian rocket that Hamas has renamed the Al-Yasin 105, in honor of the group’s founder killed in an Israeli air strike in 2004. Whereas the unique Russian model can soften by way of as much as two ft of metal armor, consultants say it’s not clear whether or not the home-brewed explosives within the Hamas knock-off are as potent.
Hamas has posted a number of movies of fighters firing the rockets at Israeli tanks and armored private carriers. These movies are usually minimize off after the warhead explodes, making it inconceivable to independently confirm whether or not the goal was destroyed.
Additionally, in a tactic borrowed from the battlefields of Ukraine, Hamas seems to have obtained or copied Iranian-designed drones that pack warheads that explode when crashed into their targets. Off- the-shelf, Chinese language-made quadcopter drones have additionally been tailored to drop explosives on tanks and troops.
“The provision of economic off-the-shelf unmanned aerial autos, these gentle shopper drones, has radically modified warfare lately,” Jenzen-Jones stated. “We’ve seen them, clearly, in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Ukraine, and now in Gaza.”
Biesecker reported from Washington. AP author Josef Federman contributed from Jerusalem.
Contact AP’s international investigative staff at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/suggestions/