The link between Iran and the missile arsenals in Gaza
Editor’s note: At TJP press time Tuesday, terrorist groups had fired more than 3,500 missiles into Israel. The Iron Dome has maintained an interception rate just over 90%.
(Middle East Media Research Institute via JNS) During the current clashes between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, several types of rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel. According to statements by Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, these include Sejjil-type missiles, as well as SH-85s, J-80s, SA-120s, S-40s and Q-20s. The Brigades announced separately that Hamas is using “a new, special tactic to fire the highly destructive Sejjil missiles,” with the aim of evading interception by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Hamas also fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at a military jeep north of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, May 12, killing 21-year-old Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib and wounding two other soldiers, one seriously.
Other terror organizations have also boasted about the rockets fired into Israel. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) stated that it had fired Badr-3 rockets at Ashkelon. The military wing of the Al-Mujahideen movement said it had fired a Sa’ir rocket at Nahal Oz, a kibbutz on the Gaza border, and the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees announced that it had fired a “KH rocket” at Israel’s Hatzerim airbase on May 12 and “Model 107” rockets at the Ashkelon area.
As early as 2012, PIJ leaders are on record stating that the group’s missiles were provided by Iran. In recent years, the Gaza terror organizations have significantly upgraded their rocket capabilities, primarily with help from Iran, which has provided them with weapons and also helped them to boost their own rocket-manufacturing capabilities. Gaza officials have often highlighted the importance of this Iranian assistance and stressed the direct involvement of Qassem Soleimani, the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, who was killed in January 2020 in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad.
The following are excerpts from some of these statements:
May 2021, PIJ: ‘All our
weapons, money and
food are provided by Iran’
In an interview that aired on Iraq’s Al-Ahd TV on May 7, senior PIJ official Ramez al-Halabi said that the rockets used by the faction to target Tel Aviv bear the signature of Iran and Soleimani. He added that faction members were trained by the IRGC and that Iranian money was used to buy weapons for the armed factions in Gaza and Lebanon. Al-Halabi added that a portrait of Soleimani hangs in every Gaza home, and that “it is they [Iran] who support us with weapons, money and food.”
December 2020-January 2021, Hamas, Hezbollah: Iran sent Kornet missiles to Gaza
At a Jan. 2, 2021, memorial for Soleimani, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said: “During the time of aggression of 2008-09 [i.e., Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”] a shortage of anti-tank weapons was discovered among the resistance fighters in Gaza, and Soleimani tried [to ensure] that those weapons would arrive in the shortest possible time.”
In a Dec. 27, 2020 interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah clarified that the weapons in question were Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, that had arrived via Syria.
“The brother al-Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] told me: ‘Oh Sayyid [Nasrallah], we must take the Kornet [missiles] that you have and send them to the brothers in Gaza’—of course, we were talking about Hamas and PIJ,” he said.
“I answered him: ‘… We took those missiles from the brothers in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad agreed that those missiles, which Syria purchased from Russia, are in South Lebanon, but I don’t know whether he will agree to them being in Gaza. … It is only right that I request his approval.’ [Soleimani] told me: ‘No problem. Whoever meets with him first will speak to him.’
“By chance, I was the first to meet with President al-Assad, and so I spoke to him … [Assad] said: ‘As far as I’m concerned, there’s no problem.’ At the same time, Qassem [Soleimani] and the joint [Quds Force-Hezbollah] cell … received the Kornet [missiles] and transferred them [to Gaza],” said Nasrallah.
“This is [only] one example. Everyone knows that the brother Qassem Soleimani and the brothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran also sent [military] aid to Gaza using [their] diplomatic relations—for example, their relations with Sudan. Things came to the point where Israeli planes bombed factories or weapons storehouses in Sudan … because they are storehouses for weapons, ammunition and missiles to be sent later, by various and diverse means, to the Gaza Strip,” he added.
Regarding the Kornet missiles Hamas received from Iran, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al-Mayadeen in a Dec. 28, 2020 interview: “The Kornet missile has become necessary for the struggle against the occupation state. … The Kornet conveyed to the occupation the message that it will be difficult for it to approach the [Gaza] borders. … The Kornet constitutes a deterrent force that should be developed, in preparation for the defeat of the occupation and all its collaborators.”
Alluding to Iran, al-Zahar thanked “all those who provide assistance to the resistance in the struggle against the occupation, even if it is [as small as] a pen.”
December 2020-January 2021,
PIJ: Soleimani personally
oversaw the transfer of
rockets to Gaza
In a Dec. 31, 2020, interview with Al-Mayadeen, PIJ Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhalah said: “We have had the Kornet [missile] in our possession since 2012, as have our brothers in Hamas. In all the campaigns [against Israel] … the resistance has used them. … All the conventional weapons reached [Gaza] via al-Hajj Qassem Soleimani, Hezbollah and Syria, and the entire [resistance] axis played a part in transporting them. … There are training camps in Syria where our brothers in Hamas received special training to produce the rockets.”
Nakhalah went on to say that Soleimani had personally “supervised and directed the transfer of the missiles to Gaza [and had] traveled among several countries to persuade them [to help with this]. … He personally visited Sudan [and arrived at] a clear agreement that it [Sudan] would serve as a station for the transfer of the weapons.”
Nakhalah also revealed that Soleimani had sent 10 shiploads of weapons to the Gaza Strip.
The next day, Jan. 1, 2021, Nakhalah told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam TV about Soleimani’s role in arming and training the military factions in Gaza. He said that “nothing happened without [Soleimani’s] direct orders and oversight” and that it was Soleimani who had supplied the missiles used to attack Tel Aviv. Nakhaleh added that Soleimani had played a “pivotal” role in the decision to attack “the capital of the Zionist entity” and that thanks to the experience gained under Soleimani’s guidance, the people of Gaza had learned how to manufacture missiles locally.
“With the capabilities at hand today, Gaza can confront Israel for a prolonged war. This expertise did not come from nowhere. They are the result of a great effort by Hajj Qassem [Soleimani] to enable [the Palestinian] fighters to reach that goal,” said Nakhalah.
Adding that Soleimani “did not train [the Palestinians] himself, obviously, but he gave instructions to the experts who supervised these matters,” Nakhalah said that his plans had “of course” been implemented, and that “nothing happened without his direct orders and supervision. What stage was reached, the results, all these things—he supervised all that. This was in addition to the strategic step of sending missiles and weapons to the Gaza Strip. It was almost miraculous. It was very expensive in terms of technology, security and capabilities.”
Despite the logistical challenges, he said, “it was accomplished. [Soleimani] himself invested a lot [of effort] into this. He traveled to various countries, made plans, and set up guidelines to deliver these weapons [to the Gaza Strip]. And indeed, these weapons were delivered [to the Gaza Strip]. I can say that the missiles that [Soleimani] delivered to the Gaza Strip were the ones used to attack Tel Aviv. I can say that Hajj Qassem played a pivotal role in the fact that the Palestinians ventured to attack the capital of the Zionist entity.
“From that point in time, weapons were developed in Palestine, and the Palestinians began to manufacture all the missiles themselves as a result of the experience they gained thanks to the decisions of Hajj Qasem. This is a great and important issue, and without a doubt played a role in strengthening the Palestinian resistance.”
May 2020, Hamas: ‘Iran has
never hesitated to support
In “Quds Day” statements, Hamas political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh said: “Iran has never hesitated to support the resistance and assist it financially, militarily and technologically.”
Saleh al-Arouri, Haniyeh’s deputy, told Al-Mayadeen in an interview that month that “relations between Hamas and Iran are strong” and that “Iran has given Hamas and the resistance movements all the support and weapons they need.” He also revealed that during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza war, Soleimani had been present in the Hamas military operations room in Damascus, and added that Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, was “maintaining the coordination and assistance to the Palestinian resistance.”
January 2020, Hezbollah-affiliated daily: Soleimani found ways to smuggle weapons into Gaza
A reporter for the Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar daily, Abd al-Rahman Nassar, wrote on Jan. 4, 2020, about Soleimani’s extensive military aid to the Palestinians in Gaza, the various sophisticated methods he developed for smuggling weapons into the Strip and his occasional role in mediating between Palestinian factions.
“A commander in the [Palestinian] resistance says that nearly every missile and rifle in Palestine bears Soleimani’s fingerprints. … He personally oversaw the establishment of the route for transferring game-changing missiles and weapons to the Gaza Strip,” wrote Nassar.
“The route was circuitous: from the [Persian] Gulf to the Red Sea and through Eritrea to Sudan, where there were factories for assembling [the missiles], and then via Sinai to the resistance [in Gaza]. That was the initial route of the missiles before it was decided that Gaza would manufacture its own weapons, of every kind,” he wrote.
“At certain points, when the situation in Sinai was difficult and the resistance needed weapons urgently, Hajj [Soleimani] took a gamble [and came up] with the idea of throwing the weapons from ships passing through the Suez canal, in barrels, after verifying the direction of the sea currents [and making sure] that they will reach Gaza. The resistance [fighters] would sail out a short distance into the sea and collect most of the barrels,” he added.
The article went on to state that “There is no prominent Palestinian leader, political or military, who did not meet with Soleimani. … He even mediated in several disputes between the factions, in various periods. He ate with them and met with them in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and other countries … and established units with many missions related to Palestine, including in the fields of cyber and psychological warfare, and the like. … When Hamas decided to change its political charter, it sent Soleimani a copy so he could review it and make recommendations before the [Hamas] political bureau approved it.”
Soleimani had received “special dispensations” for the Palestinian “resistance” from the Assad regime in Syria, Nassar claimed.
“He obtained Assad’s permission to conduct missile tests in the Syrian desert, and permission to land planes on a special landing strip in one of the Syrian airbases, without the Syrian soldiers questioning the identity of those coming and going. There were many other favors as well,” he wrote.
May 2019, Hamas: Without Iranian assistance, no capacity to fire rockets at Tel Aviv
On May 30, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar attended the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada. The conference was held by the Gaza factions on the occasion of Quds Day, identified with Iran, which is marked there and in many Arab countries as well as by Muslims in the West with mass anti-Israel marches.
In his address, Sinwar stressed Iran’s central role in enhancing the military capabilities of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, noting the progress they had made over the years.
“In 2008-2009, the resistance fired several dozen locally-manufactured Grad rockets [into Israel]. In the 2012 war, it managed to develop its means and bombard Tel Aviv with 18 Fajr rockets, and in 2014 it fired over 170 Fajr rockets at Tel Aviv. All this was with the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Earlier, in a Dec. 25, 2017, speech in Gaza, Sinwar said that Soleimani had contacted the commanders of the Al-Qassam Brigades and the Al-Quds Brigades to say: “We place all our capabilities at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem.” According to Sinwar, Soleimani’s pledge was unconditional.
In the speech, that was aired by Al-Mayadeen, Sinwar said: “[Soleimani] said clearly: We place all our capabilities at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem. He did not ask, set conditions, or encourage us to employ any specific type of resistance. Let me tell you something. I sat with the man when I visited Tehran in 2012. I saw a man who loves Palestine, loves Jerusalem and loves anything that could bolster the steadfastness of our people.”
PIJ leaders acknowledged
for years that their missiles come from Iran
As far back as 2012, PIJ leaders stressed in statements on various TV channels that they “receive Iranian aid and support” and that “the weapons that are fighting the Israeli aggression and arrogance in Palestine come mainly from Iran.” The “entire world” knew this, they said; it was “no secret.”
PIJ leader Ramadhan Abdallah Shalah told Al-Jazeera TV on Nov. 20, 2012: “With regard to the Iranian position—even if we have disagreements with Iran regarding the situation in Syria, I don’t think that we, as the Palestinian resistance, have disagreements with Iran regarding what is happening in Palestine, or regarding the Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip. With regard to Palestine, we are in complete agreement with Iran. Iran has given us all the aid and all the support. The weapons that are fighting the Israeli aggression and arrogance in Palestine come mainly from Iran, as the entire world knows. This is no secret. These are either Iranian weapons or weapons financed by Iran.”
The previous day, on Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam TV, then-PIJ deputy secretary-general Ziyad Nakhala said: “We are on the brink of a great victory, Allah willing. This is a new stage in the conflict with the Zionist enterprise.” He added that the missiles had “absolutely” changed the equation and that “this wonderful weapon has proven its significant role in battle. The missiles have changed the balance of power,and have proven to Israel that we can shell their cities like they shell ours, and that we can shell their military camps like they shell our children.”
In response to the host’s question about whether the PIJ was “firing the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles” and whether the organization possessed these missiles, Nakhala said: “Absolutely. These missiles have restored the honor of the Palestinian people. We received these missiles from our allies and brothers in the Islamic Republic. They have [generously] given us these missiles, exerting great effort. These missiles have changed the equation in this conflict.”
Additionally, senior PIJ official Sheikh Khaled al-Batsh told Al-Mayadeen on Nov. 15, 2012, that the Fajr-5 missiles “are 100 percent Iranian made, and are part of the legitimate aid that the Islamic Republic provides to the Palestinian people. This is well known and was announced in the media.”
This article was first published by the Middle East Media Research Institute.