Hamas is attempting to negotiate a new arms deal with North Korea for missiles and communications commitment that will allow it to maintain its offensive against Israel, according to Western security sources.
National Post GraphicsA total (and extensive) accounting of all of North Korea’s conventional arms. Click through to see the full list.
Security officials say the deal between Hamas and North Korea is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and is being handled by a Lebanese-based trading company with ties to the militant Palestinian organization.
Hamas officials are believed to have already made an initial cash downpayment to secure the deal and are hoping that North Korea will soon begin shipping extra supplies of weapons to Gaza.
“Hamas is looking for ways to replenish its stocks of missiles because of the large numbers it has fired at Israel in recent weeks,” said a security official. “North Korea is an obvious place to seek supplies because Pyongyang already has close ties with a number of militant Islamist groups in the Middle East.”
Using intermediaries based in Lebanon, Hamas officials are said to be intensifying their efforts to sign a new agreement with Pyongyang to provide hundreds of missiles together with communications equipment that will improve the ability of Hamas fighters to coordinate operations against Israeli forces.
Like other Islamist terrorist groups in the region such as Hezbollah, Hamas has forged close links with North Korea, which is keen to support groups opposed to Western interests in the region.
The relationship between Hamas and North Korea first became public in 2009 when 35 tons of arms, including surface-to-surface missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, were seized after a cargo plane carrying the equipment was forced to make an emergency landing at Bangkok airport. Investigators later confirmed that the arms had been destined for Iran, which then planned to smuggle them to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
AP Photo/Ashraf AmraIn this Dec. 20, 2008, file photo, masked Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad place homemade rockets before later firing them into Israel on the outskirts of Gaza City.
Israeli military commanders supervising operations against Gaza believe North Korean experts have given Hamas advice on building the extensive network of tunnels in Gaza that has enabled fighters to move weapons without detection by Israeli drones.
The North Koreans have one of the world’s most sophisticated network of tunnels beneath the demilitarized zone with South Korea, and Israeli commanders believe Hamas has used this expertise to improve their own.
The Hamas arsenal has become increasingly sophisticated with foreign assistance and now boasts five variants of rockets and missiles.
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Its basic weapon is the Iranian-designed Qassam rocket with a range of less than 10 miles, but it also has a large stockpile of the 122mm Katyushas, which boast a range of up to 30 miles. The introduction of the M-75 and Syrian-made M0302 missiles means Hamas has offensive weapons with a longer range of up to 100 miles and a much greater explosive impact.
Since 2012 – when the Israeli Defence Forces conducted an eight-day offensive codenamed Operation Pillar of Defence against the Islamist militants – Hamas has increased the size and strength of its arsenal. Israeli military intelligence puts its stockpile at around 10,000 rockets and mortars, including long-range rockets capable of reaching Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the northern port city of Haifa.