Israeli Arrest Draws Attention to Hamas Rocket Artillery
The Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, recently arrested a Hamas activist who had been sent to Saudi Arabia to bring back funding for the Hamas rocket production, Israeli media reported. Documents seized from the activist show that Hamas production of homemade artillery rockets is well advanced, and have Israel extremely worried of a barrage of “Katyusha” rockes being sent against it from throughout the Palestinian territories.
First fired against an Israeli settlement in October 2001, the Qassam-1 rockets are self-produced by the Hamas organization inside the Gaza Strip. The rockets have a much greater range than the mortars that Hamas members have been using to fire at neighboring Israeli communities. This allows Hamas members to fire them from a safer distance, and to reach targets far deeper inside Israel.
Palestinian security officials told Time Magazine earlier this month that the Hamas rocket was a locally produced copy of a North Korean rocket design. According to these sources, Hizbollah activists acquired the rocket from Syrian soldiers in Lebanon, and passed it on to Hamas. The weapon was smuggled into the Gaza Strip, where a special Hamas engineering unit was set up to replicate it.
The arrested Hamas operative was identified as Osama Karika, of Gaza, by Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The newspaper reported that during Karika's questioning, investigators discovered that he had traveled to Saudi Arabia on several occasions in order to obtain from Hamas figures money and instructions for assembling the "Qassam" rockets, and that written instructions to this effect were found in Karika's belongings.
The Jerusalem Post added that the Hams activist had traveled to Saudi Arabia three months ago, telling the Israeli soldiers at the Rafah check post in the southern Gaza Strip that he was making a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. He recently attempted to return to Saudi Arabia, this time telling soldiers he was going for medical treatment. The suspicious soldiers detained him for questioning and handed him over to the Shin Bet.
News of the progress Hamas has made in the field of artillery rockets is extremely worrying to Israeli officials, who fear a Lebanon-type scenario of cross border rocket bombardments. (www.albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)