May 29, 2024

Hamas Repurposing Unexploded Israeli Munitions for Weapons

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Jan 29, 2024

Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that governs Gaza, has reportedly been repurposing unexploded Israeli munitions left over from past conflicts to build their own rockets and explosives. This revelation comes from a recent New York Times report detailing Hamas’s weapons infrastructure and capabilities.

Discovery of Hamas Weapon Manufacturing Operations

The New York Times discovered Hamas’s practice of harvesting unexploded Israeli ordnance while investigating the source of the explosives used in the group’s deadliest attack on Israel yet on October 7th, 2022. That attack killed over 100 Israeli soldiers and civilians. According to the Times’ sources within Israeli intelligence and Gaza:

Much of the explosive material for Hamas rockets and bombs comes from stockpiles of unexploded Israeli munitions that did not detonate during previous clashes. Hamas sappers and weapons engineers harvest the material and repurpose it into their own homemade weapons.

This finding sheds light on how Hamas has been able to rapidly expand their rocket production and launch capabilities despite Israeli and Egyptian efforts to restrict the influx of weapons-making material into Gaza.

Israel Struggling to Counter Hamas Capabilities

The October 7th attack seems to have caught Israel off-guard regarding Hamas’s expanding arsenal. As the death toll from that single attack nears the total casualties suffered during the entire 11-day conflict in 2021, Israel is grappling with this new reality. Their vaunted Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept short and mid-range rockets, has been overwhelmed by Hamas’s increasingly sophisticated long-range rockets and guided missiles. Israeli offensives have also struggled recently to significantly degrade Hamas’s capabilities according to internal IDF reports.

As one Israeli general admitted:

“We thought we had destroyed the majority of their weapons facilities and rocket launchers in last year’s conflict. Yet they were clearly able to rebuild much of that capacity right under our noses.”

A leaked IDF report in November found that Hamas had constructed an entire network of tunnels and underground launch facilities without Israeli intelligence discovering them beforehand. Repurposed unexploded Israeli munitions likely contributed greatly to this secret buildup. Israel is now playing catch up while Hamas operates with surprising strategic depth despite Gaza’s small size and isolation.

Hamas Leveraging Unexploded Ordnance Since 2014

According to Gazan weapons engineers interviewed by the Times, Hamas has been systematically searching former battle zones for unexploded Israeli missiles and bombs since the last major conflict in 2014. An estimated 30-40% of Israeli missiles and bombs dropped on Gaza fail to properly detonate on impact. Hamas instructs local teams to comb these targeted areas safely harvesting explosives and repairable components:

After Israeli missile strikes and air raids, we search for the undetonated bombs and tear out their explosive material and detonators…Their high-tech bombs become our high-tech IEDs and rockets.

Year Unexploded Ordnance Recovered (kg) Hamas rockets produced
2014 ~5,000 1,000+
2021 ~15,000 3,500+
2022 ~30,000+ 6,000+

Hamas weapon experts have become increasingly skilled at reverse-engineering sophisticated Israeli missile guidance systems and fuzing mechanisms using recovered components. These upgrades allow for more precision targeting by Hamas.

Repurposed materials now likely make up a majority of Hamas’s estimated 30,000 rocket and missile stockpile according to Israeli defense analysts. Harvesting unexploded munitions enables Hamas to rapidly rebuild and expand its arsenal despite Israeli countermeasures. One Gazan engineer glowed:

In times past it was David against Goliath. But now, Goliath arms David!

Israel Debates Tightening Rules of Engagement

In light of Hamas’s expanding capabilities, Israel is reexamining its rules of engagement in Gaza. Restricting airstrikes and artillery fire to reduce the amount of unexploded ordnance available for Hamas’s use is reportedly being considered.

However, some Israeli military leaders argue this would excessively endanger Israeli troops and civilians:

“We cannot start fighting this war with one arm tied behind our backs…That has grave costs in blood and life.”

The death toll from the October 7th attack saw the Israeli public demand stronger military action rather than restraint. Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned on getting tough on Hamas once again.

Ultimately, the Israeli government concluded that accepting reduced military effectiveness was an unacceptable tradeoff. But new technologies and tactics to cut down on errant explosions are likely to be funded and deployed rapidly. In the meantime, the IDF may start targeting suspected Hamas weapons harvesting teams with deadly force after warning shots as a deterrent.

International Community Calls for Restraint

The UN and several European states have called on both sides to avoid provocative actions that could spark another major round of open conflict. However, long-running tensions between Israel and Hamas and cycles of reciprocal retaliation make this unlikely. The repurposing revelation has also further hardened attitudes in some Israeli political circles:

“Now it is confirmed that Hamas turns our mercy into weapons against us. No more.”

With Benjamin Netanyahu returning as Prime Minister, the Israeli government is unlikely to heed international calls for Gaza ceasefires and aid as it has occasionally done in the past. Netanyahu’s coalition partners and much of the public are demanding definitive action against Hamas. Popular former Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters recently:

“Would you give aid to an enemy actively harvesting your own munitions to kill you? We will pursue our security as we see fit.”

Outlook: Further Escalatory Violence Likely

In light of these revelations about Hamas’s capabilities, Israeli domestic politics, and the reaction from both sides to the October attack, security analysts widely expect another major round of open conflict in the near future. Even if the Israeli government held back, current tensions and cycles of reciprocal violence may spark an uncontrollable escalation regardless.

Hamas rocket and attack tunnel capabilities mean that not only border areas but major Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will likely sustain heavy damage in another conflict. Casualty projections on both sides are sobering. Meanwhile the repurposing of unexploded Israeli munitions to produce weapons shows no signs of abating without Israeli rules of engagement changes that its government deems unacceptable at this time.

Unfortunately the situation contains the seeds for even greater devastation ahead. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “the next war between Israel and Hamas could make past ones look minor.” All sides are racing to improve military capabilities and technology with little hope for deescalation breaking out. Ms. Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, worries that:

“With so much pain and anger hardening attitudes further, dangerous and illegal policies are too easily justified while civilians pay the price.”

For the foreseeable future, the Israel-Hamas conflict seems set to grow even more destructive. All signs point to Hamas continuing to leverage unexploded Israeli munitions to fuel this heightened arms race.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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