Hamas’ Order of Battle: Weapons, Training, and Targets

Hamas’ Order of Battle: Weapons, Training, and Targets

Lenny Ben-David

In the course of their 50-day war against Israel, Hamas and its terrorist partners in Gaza fired more than 4,500 rockets and mortars at Israel.

The weapons’ ranges varied from two to 160 km., and the gross inaccuracy and inconsistency of the rocket fire meant that Hamas had unleashed real terrorizing weaponry. Rockets and mortars struck indiscriminately, and civilians had to drop everything to scurry with their children to shelters, often in the middle of the night.

IDF infographic published during Operation Protective Edge. (IDF Blog)

IDF infographic published during Operation Protective Edge. (IDF Blog)

Hamas’ weapons undoubtedly would have caused hundreds, perhaps thousands, of casualties if not for Israel’s active and passive defenses. The Iron Dome system intercepted 735 rockets heading toward densely-populated areas and strategic facilities. Israel’s sensitive radars issued early warning (sometimes of only a few seconds) of incoming rockets.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad weapons were unreliable; hundreds of rockets fell within Gaza itself and killed or wounded untold numbers of Palestinian residents.1

Screenshot of tweet by Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati on July 23, 2014.

Screenshot of tweet by Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati on July 23, 2014.

Throughout the 50-day war, sirens wailed in the major Israeli metropolitan areas of Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Haifa, and Dimona. Smaller towns near Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and in the vicinity of Ben-Gurion International Airport were frequent targets. Agricultural communities near Gaza were under nearly constant mortar barrage, and many residents had to be evacuated. Israeli-Arab Bedouin towns and villages also came under fire.

Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad’s rockets were fired at major strategic targets – ports, industrial parks, power stations, water plants, reactors, military bases, and Defense Ministry facilities.  Also hit were apartments, houses, schools, synagogues, and shopping malls.

Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad rockets were fired at Israeli ports, industrial parks, power stations, water plants, and military facilities. Also hit were apartments, houses, schools, synagogues, and shopping malls.

Hamas proclaimed that the closing of Ben-Gurion International Airport for one day was a major achievement for its rocketeers. In fact, the hasty decision by foreign governments to ban their carriers from flying to Israel gave Hamas its “victory.”  Despite Hamas’ efforts, no rockets fell within the airport perimeter; one fell in open fields outside of the Iron Dome’s defensive shield, and, unfortunately, its concussion was felt in Washington, D.C.

Sources of the Rockets

At the start of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces estimated that more than 10,000 rockets were in the hands of terrorist organizations.2 Many of the longer range rockets were provided by Iran and Syria or stolen from Libyan arsenals. Iranian naval ships delivered their weapons to Sudanese or Syrian ports, and from there they were smuggled to the Egypt-Gaza border and transported through tunnels to Gaza. Such were the cases with the M-302 and Grad rockets and mortars. On occasion, the trucks transporting the weapons were interdicted and destroyed by Israel, foreign news sources speculated.

Long-range M-302 rockets on board the Klos-C ship intercepted by Israel on March 5, 2014. (IDF/Flickr)

Long-range M-302 rockets on board the Klos-C ship intercepted by Israel on March 5, 2014. (IDF/Flickr)

After smuggling routes were blocked and the Egypt-Gaza tunnels destroyed by Egyptian forces, Hamas and its partner organizations set up rocket factories in Gaza for the manufacture of Qassam, Grad, and M75 rockets.

Hamas’ Rocket Arsenal3

Short-range (15-20 km.)

  • Over 1,000 units of self-produced rockets (15 km.)
  • Over 2,500 units of smuggled rockets (15 km.)
  • 200 units of self-produced Grad rockets (20 km.)
  • 200 units of smuggled Grad rockets (20 km.)

Medium-range (up to 45 km.)

  • 200 units of self-produced improved Grad rockets (45 km.)
  • 1,000 units of smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km.)

Medium-Long-range (up to 80 km.)

  • Over 400 units of self-produced medium range rockets
  • Several dozens of rockets (80 km.)

Long-range (100-200 km.)

  • Tens of long-range rockets (100-200 km.)

Total: Approximately 6,000 rockets

Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Rocket Arsenal

Short-range (15-20 km.)

  • 1,000 units of self-produced rockets (15 km.)
  • 1,000 units of smuggled rockets (15 km.)
  • 300 units of self-produced Grad rockets (20 km.)
  • 100 units of smuggled Grad rockets (20 km.)

Medium-range (up to 45 km.)

  • 200 units of self-produced improved Grad rockets (45 km.)
  • 600 units of smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km.)

Medium-Long- range (up to 80 km.)

  • Over 100 units of self-produced medium range rockets
  • Several medium-long range rockets (80 km.)

Total: Approximately 5,500 rockets

Other Organizations Rocket Arsenal (including Fatah)

Short-range (15-20 km.)

  • Hundreds of self-produced and smuggled rockets including Grad rockets (15 km.)

Medium-range (up to 45 km.)

  • Dozens of self-produced and smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km.)

At the conclusion of hostilities, Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades boasted that it had fired “some 3,600 rockets” at Israel including the following types and numbers:4

  • 3,344 – Grad/Qassam/Katyusha/mortar (short range)
  • 64 – Fajr 5 (mid-range)
  • 185 – M75 (mid-range)
  • 22 – J80 (mid-range)
  • 11 – R160 (long-range)5

Rocket Locations and Storage Areas

Hamas’ rocket warfare against Israel relied on tunnels and subterranean storage. Depots and firing positions were usually underground. To escape after firing or to reload rocket launchers, Hamas fighters relied on tunnels.

Hamas fires rockets from underground launch sites.

This video from 2012 shows how Hamas hides long-range Fajr-5 rockets underground in Gaza. (IDF/YouTube)

Hamas Force Structure and Deployment

According to Israeli reports, Hamas forces numbered 16,000 men on the eve of Operation Protective Edge. “Hamas’ fighting force was divided into six regional brigades, each one made up of 2,000 to 3,500 operatives,” the New York Times wrote, citing an intelligence official.6  Each Hamas battalion was “assigned its own tunnel,”7 and each battalion was “responsible for its digging and probably operations during wartime.”8

In its own publications, Hamas listed its strength at 30,000 fighters.9

Naval Commandos

On July 8, in the first stages of the war, four heavily armed Hamas frogmen infiltrated Israel from the Mediterranean Sea. They landed near an Israeli military base and civilian community. The Hamas commandos attempted to attack an IDF tank and bulldozer but were killed on the beach within minutes.10

Later the same day, Mohammed Shaaban, the commander of Hamas’ naval commando unit, was killed when his car was hit by an air-to-ground missile in the Gazan neighborhood of Jabalya.11

Leaked IDF video of the Hamas frogmen assault on the Mediterranean coast inside Israel, just north of the Gaza Strip border, on July 8, 2014.

Drones

On July 14 and 17, Hamas drones packed with explosives were detected entering Israeli airspace, one near Ashdod and the other near Ashkelon.12 The drones were provided by Iran, the supplier of similar unmanned aerial vehicles to Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Hamas drones were shot down by Patriot anti-aircraft missiles.

On December 14, 2014, Hamas staged a 27th anniversary parade in Gaza that featured a flyover by a “locally made” drone.

Hamas tests a UAV in the Gaza Strip in November 2012. (IDF/YouTube)

Paragliders

On November 25, 1987, two Palestinian terrorists in motorized paragliders infiltrated northern Israel from Lebanon. They killed six soldiers and wounded eight before they were killed.

The hang glider used in 1987 to attack northern Israel. Six IDF soldiers were killed. (Ministry of Defense archives)

The hang glider used in 1987 to attack northern Israel. Six IDF soldiers were killed. (Ministry of Defense archives)

Hamas sought to repeat the tactic in the summer of 2014. A 15-man paraglider unit was set up by Raed Attar, one of Hamas’ top military leaders. He sent the unit to Malaysia to practice paragliding in 2010, according to Mohammad Kadara, who was captured during Operation Protective Edge.13 “We practiced in Malaysia for a week on motorized paragliders, and were trained by local instructors,” Kadara said.  Later they were sent to Hamas bases in Khan Younis and Rafah.  “There, we trained on paragliding, marksmanship and firing Kalashnikov rifles, and underwent further training in Rafah in navigation,” Kadara said. “The plan was to cross the border into Israel with a paraglider, reach an IDF post or settlement, shoot at soldiers and civilians and kill as many Israelis as possible.”

Raed Attar was killed in an Israeli air strike on August 21. “Attar’s assassination disrupted everything,” a senior Israeli security official stated. The attack never took place.14

Shoulder-fired Anti-aircraft Missiles — MANPADS

Several dozen Strella SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles (man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS) were reported to be in the Hamas arsenal, a handful of which were seen in a military parade in Gaza in September 2013.15 Twelve missiles were reportedly fired at Israeli aircraft without causing damage, according to a senior military official.16 The missiles were believed to have been stolen from Libyan arsenals after the fall of President Gaddafi. They were supplied via the tunnels dug between Egypt and Gaza, tunnels now sealed since the overthrow in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013.

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades also claimed to possess later-model MANPADS, including the Igla SA-18 and the Grinch SA-24.17

Suicide Bombers

Hamas integrated suicide bombers into its ground forces, and Israeli troops were attacked on several occasions by these fighters who function as very accurate “guided missiles.” On July 20, a woman with a bomb strapped to her chest rushed a group of soldiers and was killed before she exploded.18 On July 21, the IDF intercepted terrorists as they emerged from a tunnel in Israeli territory. The terrorists were dressed as Israeli soldiers – down to their boots – and several wore suicide vests.19 A suicide bomber killed three IDF soldiers in Rafah, Gaza, on August 1.20

Hamas’ Children Fighters

Hamas has invested considerable resources to train thousands of Gazan children as fighters, teaching them close-order drills, throwing grenades, attacking through tunnels, and shooting Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Describing a camp for 17,000 teenagers, a Washington Post correspondent reported, “[T]he trainers were Qassam commanders dressed in khaki camouflage who barked orders like drill sergeants, answered by shouts of “Allahu akbar” by the attendees.”21

Teens training in tunnels at Hamas camp, 2015 (Palestinian Center for Media)

Teens training in tunnels at Hamas camp, 2015 (Palestinian Center for Media)

One teen trainee described his indoctrination routine: “Every day we have someone from Hamas giving us a lesson on jihad and the importance of it. We have videos on the military operations that were done by Hamas in the last war.”

An Arab reporter visited a youth camp and interviewed the camp supervisor, Abu Hamza, as he distributed Kalashnikov rifles to the teens. “These guns make men. This is how Palestine will be liberated. [The youth] are the army of the future,” explained Abu Hamza.22

At the camp’s graduation ceremony, a member of Hamas’ political bureau declared to the audience, “Although al-Qassam Brigades have been busy with preparations following the victory in the latest war, they have refrained from training the younger generation for a future liberation. [Today,] “We are preparing this generation for Jerusalem, the West Bank and Palestine.”23

Palestinian casualties were disproportionately high among males 20-29 years old, the “population most likely to be militants,” the New York Times reported.24 But the next highest group of casualties was among males 15-19 years old, suggesting that this age group was also involved in fighting.

Lenny Ben-David, Director of Publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former senior Israeli diplomat in Washington and AIPAC official in Washington and Jerusalem. He is the Publisher of IsraelDailyPicture.com.

Notes

1 “Israel: 10 Percent of Hamas Rockets Misfired, Landed in Gaza Strip,” World Tribune, July 30, 2014, http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/07/30/israel-says-10-percent-hamas-rockets-misfire-fall-gaza-strip/
2 “Special Report: The Deadly Rocket Arsenal of Hamas,” Israel Defense Forces, July 10, 2014, http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/10/6-million-lives-in-danger-the-deadly-rocket-arsenal-of-hamas/
Ibid., http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/10/6-million-lives-in-danger-the-deadly-rocket-arsenal-of-hamas/
4 Jeffrey White, “The Combat Performance of Hamas in the Gaza War of 2014,” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, September 29, 2014, https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-combat-performance-of-hamas-in-the-gaza-war-of-2014. The author cites an Arabic Hamas Internet posting of August 27, 2014.
5 For more details on Hamas’ locally-manufactured rockets, see Hugh Naylor, “Hamas Home-Made Rockets No Match for Israel,” The National [UAE], July 16, 2014, http://www.thenational.ae/world/gaza-assault/hamas-home-made-rockets-no-match-for-israel
6 Isabel Kershner, “Israel Says Hamas Is Hurt Significantly,” New York Times, September 2, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/world/middleeast/israel-says-hamas-is-hurt-significantly.html?_r=0
7 Yaakov Lappin, “The Hidden Picture in Gaza,” Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Analysis-The-hidden-picture-in-Gaza-369501
8 White, “Combat Performance of Hamas,” https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-combat-performance-of-hamas-in-the-gaza-war-of-2014
9 “The ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades’ Weapons and Units,” MEMRI, September 2, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8132.htm
10 Lilach Shoval, “Classified Report about Zikim Attack Appears Online,” Israel Hayom, December 12, 2014,  http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=22079
11 Dave Bender, “Israel Assassinates Hamas Naval Commando Chief in Pinpoint Strike (Video),” Algemeiner, July 8, 2014, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/08/israel-assasinates-hamas-naval-commando-chief-in-pinpoint-strike-video/
12 Yoav Zitun, “Hamas Claims Multiple UAVs Launched into Israel,” Ynet News, July 14, 2014, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4543077,00.html; “IDF Intercepts Another Hamas UAV,” Ynet News, July 14, 2014, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4545505,00.html
13 Dave Bender, “Israeli Strike on Hamas Leader Raed Attar Foiled Gaza-Area Paraglider Attack – ‘Attar’s Assassination Has Disrupted Everything’,” Algemeiner, September 1, 2014, http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/09/01/israeli-strike-on-hamas-leader-raed-attar-foiled-gaza-area-paraglider-attack-attars-assassination-has-disrupted-everything/
14 Ibid., http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/09/01/israeli-strike-on-hamas-leader-raed-attar-foiled-gaza-area-paraglider-attack-attars-assassination-has-disrupted-everything/
15 Adnan Abu Amer, “Hamas Tests Anti-Aircraft Missiles against Israel,” Al Monitor, February 19, 2014, 
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/gaza-hamas-qassam-aircraft-missiles-israel-strela.html
16 Private briefing, February 2015
17 “Al-Qassam Brigades’ Weapons and Units,” http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8132.htm
18 “IDF Troops Foil Female Suicide Bombing Attack,” Israel Defense Forces, July 25, 2014, http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/25/idf-troops-foil-female-suicide-bombing-attack/
19 “IDF Thwarts Terrorist Infiltration to Israel,” Israel Defense Forces, July 22, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pkhUyEOXXE
20 “Goldin’s Death Determined by DNA Samples from Tunnel,” AFP-Times of Israel, August 3, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/goldins-death-proven-by-dna-samples-from-tunnel/
21. William Booth, “Here’s What a Hamas Training Camp for Teens Looks Like,” Washington Post, January 29, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/heres-what-a-hamas-training-camp-for-teens-looks-like/2015/01/29/ef0b4092-a33f-11e4-9f89-561284a573f8_story.html
22. Hazem Balousha, “Inside One of Hamas’ Youth Training Camps, Al-Monitor, February 3, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/hamas-youth-liberation-camps.html
23. Ibid., http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/hamas-youth-liberation-camps.html
24. Jodi Rudoren, “Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead from the Gaza Conflict,” New York Times, August 5, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/world/middleeast/civilian-or-not-new-fight-in-tallying-the-dead-from-the-gaza-conflict.html?_r=0