ATbar The Qassam Rockets - Hamas' Next Strategic Weapon in the West Bank
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The Qassam Rockets - Hamas' Next Strategic Weapon in the West Bank

13/07/2005 | by Fighel, Jonathan (Col. Ret.)  

 During the initial period of the violent confrontations, the “Qassam” rocket was perceived as a “improvised pipe” whose effectiveness was doubtful. Hundreds of these rockets, launched during the first years of the Intifada, caused little damage; most did not even reach their target. However, during the months of July-October 2004, such rockets caused four deaths in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, and hundreds of people suffered shock-related conditions. The effectiveness of the rockets, as a psychological weapon against a civilian population is not longer in doubt.

From the end of 2001, when the Hamas organization began its Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip, (and inside the Green Line) until October 2004, some 300 Qassam rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Over 70 rockets landed in the city of Sderot. During the Intifada, the Palestinians improved the rockets’ range from 3 km. to 10 km. Hamas is now developing the “Qassam 4” rocket, which will have a range of approximately 17 km. Security officials estimate that if the Palestinians launch the Qassam from Palestinian Authority territory in the West Bank, most of the Israeli civilian population will be within range of the rocket threat.

As early as 24 January 2002, in an interview aired on CBS’s “60 minutes”, one of Hamas’ most prominent leaders, Mussa Abu Marzouk, confirmed that “Hamas was working on a rocket with a range of 6 miles, which would enable it to reach the Israeli neighborhoods around Jerusalem”. The I.D.F. confirmed this, and on 27 January 2002, a military source predicted that: “Qassam2” rockets would soon be launched against the Sharon region cities.”[1]

Hamas derived its inspiration for their strategic and tactical thinking from the example of Hizballah in Lebanon. In their view, the Qassam rockets are a strategic tool to deter Israel from “crossing the red line” in the Gaza Strip, or as retribution for crossing these lines. The movement’s leadership is aware that launching the rockets is not an effective tool in causing casualties and damage. However, they believe that it is a deterrent measure, which has a psychological effect on the Israeli population and decision-makers. Moreover, in their opinion, halting the firing would be construed as capitulation to Israeli dictates to the Palestinian Authority.

The operational experience and the Hamas’ success (as perceived by the movement), have encouraged it to make every effort to move to the next stage, transforming the West Bank into a large base for the firing of Qassam rockets on the civilian population within the State of Israel. Hamas has already carried out serious trials, all of which were revealed as they took place. If Hamas does succeed in establishing a rocket formation in the West Bank, the Qassam problem will become not only a purely military problem but a strategic one. One only need glance at the map to see that the distance between Israel’s central cities and the West Bank is well within the capabilities of the new Qassam rocket. Cities such as Kfar Sava, Rosh Haayin, Hadera and Beth Shean will all be within range of the rockets, as will Jerusalem. Even if we assume that Hamas does not succeed in expanding the range of the rockets to over 9.0 km, it would be sufficient for a number of Qassams to hit in the vicinity of Ben-Gurion airport for all the foreign airlines to halt their flights to the airport.

Warning signs of that Hamas seeks to establish a network in Samaria [2]

At the end of December 2002, Hamas’ military wing, the Izz e-din Al-Qassam Brigades announced the death of the “martyr” Tarek Muhammad Abed Rabo, from Tulkarem, the Qassam rockets hero in the West Bank”. According to the announcement on the movement’s website, Abed Rabo had been active in the Izz e-din al-Qassam Brigades until he was killed in a confrontation with I.D.F. forces in the Nur al-Shams refugee camp. The organization praised his activities and stressed his involvement in launching Qassam2 rockets from Tulkarem, which, they said, hit an electricity transformer and caused an electricity outage for some time in the “settlement of Netanya” (Um Haled). In reality this was a failed launch, in which the rocket fell near the Tnuvot co-operative settlement in the Sharon area, within the Green Line.

The movement has publishing information for its supporters on its websites on how to manufacture and launch Qassam rockets. On April 23, 2003, a forum on one of the websites identified with the Hamas published a slew of such “operational” materials.[3]

In December 2003, the Hamas website in English ( published an obituary in memory of the Hamas activist Sa’ed Abu Awad, of Tulkarem, who was killed in 2002 during confrontations with the I.D.F. in Jenin. The publication reveals that Abu Awad was an activist who manufactured Qassam2 rockets in Samaria, “which raised the conflict to a new level”. The organization praised the fact that Abu Awad “preferred to be killed in battle and not taken prisoner, where he would be forced to expose additional engineers involved in the development of the Qassam rockets.

Hereunder is the full text:

“Sa’ed Abu Awad the Qassam rocket engineer. He was born in Tulkarem in 1977. He was an active participant in the first Intifada. His manufacturing of the Qassam-2 rocket made the struggle enter a new phase. Despite the limited abilities of the rocket it nevertheless pointed to the more and more self-reliance of the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionists. The Qassam rocket range is 10-12 kms high inaccurate but able to hit all major Zionist cities. He was killed during the invasion of Jenin. He resisted courageously. It is said that he chose to die fighting so the (sic) won’t be captured and forced to speak about the other engineers involved in the developing of the Qassam rocket.” [4]

“The Qassam rockets.. In the occupied West Bank – the deterrent weapon of the next stage”[5]

Since the declaration at the Sharm-el-Sheikh Summit of the present “period of calm,” the terrorist organizations—and first and foremost, Hamas—have worked to restore and to strengthen their operational infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In an effort to upgrade their weaponry, the various organizations are making a concerted effort to transfer their production capability and launching capabilities of the Qassam rockets to the West Bank. They believe that this capability will create a “balance of deterrence” between them and Israel, (similar to the Hizballah model in South Lebanon) and will be a response to the security fence erected by Israel, which has made the entry into Israel of suicide bombers more difficult.

During the past four years, the maximum range of the rocket has been multiplied by more than three, and the terror networks are constantly striving to develop additional models to expand the range and accuracy. In addition, successful launches of the Qassam are a symbol and example to other terror organizations in addition to the Hamas. These organizations perceive this activity to be a way of perpetrating attacks on civilians inside Israel, without the need to circumvent roadblocks and Israeli security measures.

“Will the Palestinian deterrent weapon be developed in the West Bank”

An article entitled “Will the Palestinian deterrent weapon be developed in the West Bank?” was published on the Izz e-din al-Qassam website on 25 June 2005.[6] The article reviews the benefits of the rocket threat to Israel’s central towns: “the distance between Qalqilya and occupied Tel-Aviv is no more than 7 kms….the distance between Netanya and Tulkarm is no more than 4 kms. Ramallah and Bethlehem are adjacent to Jerusalem…” The writer of the article predicts that the Qassam rocket will be the primary “weopon of deterrence” in the next stage of the conflict “just as the suicide attacks were the weapons of the hour during the past years”.

This viewpoint is applied by Hamas in its efforts, during the “period of calm,” to move its production of the Qassam rockets to the West Bank. Evidence of this was discovered during and investigation of the Hamas’ operational infrastructure in Northern Judea and Samaria, which were in the process of manufacturing Qassam rockets. Among other things, an explosives laboratory was exposed in Al Yamun Village (West of Jenin), which included the body of an improvised Qassam rocket. The article sheds light on the high motivation and scope of the Hamas activity in Samaria to obtain operational capability to launch Qassam rockets into Israel.

Hereunder is the full translation of the article:

“Will the Palestinian deterrent weapon develop in the West Bank”?!

Special report:

“There are many signs, which point to the fact that the Qassam rockets and mortar shells will be transferred from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and it is only a matter of time. There are many attempts that point to this transfer to the West Bank now that it is in its fourth year in the Gaza Strip.

Jenin and Nablus

Jenin and Nablus have witnessed vigorous attempts, over the past two years, carried out by the Al Qassam Brigades to realize this aim in the Northern West Bank, which is always a hot spot, so that during the next stage they will have deterrent weapons there.

A Modest Beginning

Despite the fact that the beginning is still modest, it heralds good tidings. Although the West Bank has sustained losses over the past years and the infrastructure of the resistance movements was damaged, this did not dampen the resistance’s aspirations to achieve a balance of terror in the equation behind the fences.

The Jenin region has recently witnessed the shooting of motor shells on the pillager, the settlement of Ganim in Eastern Jenin. Although the range of the motor shells is still modest, the mere fact that there is a capability to shoot the mortars, despite the raids carried out in the region, points to the strong will of the people.

An Underground Cave!!

In January, the Zionist intelligence establishment was shocked to learn of the exposure of a plant that manufactured Qassam rockets belonging to the Hamas movement in the village of Al Yamun West of Jenin where there were rockets ready to be launched. The plant, which was in an underground cave in a blacksmith’s workshop, was attacked following a wave of arrests that included 15 movement activists from the village of Silat El Hartiya.

A few months ago, the Zionist court sentenced a cell belonging to the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, a military arm of the Popular Front in Nablus, to four years in prison for manufacturing rockets in Nablus, which enabled the launching of an experimental rocket with a short range – 100 meters, but the implications of these experiments are enormous.

First Attempt

The first attempt to launch a Qassam rocket in the West Bank was at the end of 2001. In 2002, the first Qassam rocket was fired on a Nathanya settlement, which struck a generator and caused an electricity outage in Nathanya for several hours. Thereafter, there were several attempts made in Nablus, Tulkarem and Jenin.

However, the most important factor is how matters will develop in the event of partial disengagement by the Zionist army from the West Bank cities, after the fence has been completed, when the resistance will have an infrastructure to manufacture these rockets, which will put Afula, Hadera, Nathanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem within the range of the Qassam1 rocket and there is still a need for the Qassam2 rocket. The meaning is that this rocket, which many disparaged in the past, will be the next stage’s weapon, as the suicide attacks were the weapon for many years.

The Characteristics of the Qassam Rocket

Some make light of the dangers of the Qassam rocket, but this is a mistake considering the following factors:

The difficulty in exposing the manufacturing sources of the rockets. All the demolitions carried out by the Zionist army on the workshops have failed and have not halted the manufacture of the Qassam rockets or prevented its development.

Technically, the Zionist army has no counter measures, which enable it to intercept the Qassam rocket in the air. Therefore, the only possibility of stopping the launching is to hit the operating cells or the rockets themselves, moments before the launching.

Foiling a launch by attacking the cell is considered extremely complicated and almost impossible. According to the Zionist army’s assessments, the resistance fighters bring the rockets in a commercial van and lower them from the van under cover of agricultural activity. This makes it difficult to detect them. Moreover, the occupation army has only 15 minutes at most, which is the time it takes the resistance fighters to aim the rocket and launch it from a distance, using an electric timer. In order to supervise this activity, the army would have to keep its helicopters in the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which is very expensive.

The idea of a security zone would not be successful in the West Bank. Along the separation line there are highly populated areas, which cannot be divided in spite of the fence, in addition to the lack of land, which could be turned into a security zone. Qalqilya is no more than 7 km. from Tel Aviv, Nathanya is no more than 4 km from Tulkarem, Ramallah and Bethlehem are adjacent to Jerusalem and there are settlements everywhere.

Therefore, the Zionist army does not have a magical solution, except one – and that is to carry out a massacre.

Zionist Plans

The Zionists view the development of the Qassam rocket in the West Bank with concern, due to the lack of serious security solutions, despite the many arrests that they carry out, in order to thwart the establishment of an independent resistance infrastructure. The only solution, according to the Zionist military apparatus, is in a tough response to any launching of Qassam rockets, which would teach these Palestinians a lesson and cause them to think a thousand times before shooting every rocket.

If a rocket falls on Nathanya or Afula, the Zionist air force will respond spontaneously. This will bring about a massacre of civilians in the villages, this will force the resistance to shoot the rockets in order to protect the lives of the Palestinians.

This perception is considered to be the most widespread and accepted in the Zionist military establishment. However, one question remains. Have all the Zionist massacres, aggressive acts and collective punishments extinguished the flame of resistance, or were they the reason for the development of the creative methods of resistance?”

 Foiling Hamas Attempts to Manufacture Qassam rockets in Samaria

Israel Defense Forces foiled five previous attempts at wide-scale production of Qassam rockets in Judea and Samaria during 2003-2004. In a laboratory in Nablus, the Hamas had reached an advanced stage of producing 60 rockets. Ten rockets were transferred to Jenin and were discovered there. Several complete rockets were also found. In one instance, an unsuccessful launch was carried out in the Sharon area and the rocket fell not far from the community of Tnuvot in the Sharon area. Hamas activists in the West Bank received most of their know-how on building Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip.

On 6th January 2003, the I.S.A and the I.D.F. arrested six Hamas activists in Ramallah who were working on the production of Qassam rockets. The head of the network, Fadel Taha, and his assistants were among these six. The forces also discovered a laboratory for the manufacture of Qassam rockets, production equipment, and rockets in the final stages of production. In addition, they found explosives and Qassam parts and molds in an advanced stage of assembly. An instruction manual with illustrations was also found which describes how to assemble the materials.

Fadel Taha, aged 30, from Rafat village, was the head of the Ramallah network. Taha had been arrested in 2001 for his Hamas activities and was incarcerated in Israeli prisons for two years. During his interrogation, Fadel stated that he had become friendly with activists from the Gaza Strip while he was imprisoned in an Israeli prison. Upon his release at the beginning of 2003, he immediately returned to Hamas activities in Ramallah and set up a Qassam production network under the guidance of the Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip whom he had met in prison.

It is noteworthy that this is the second time that a Hamas military network in Ramallah working on the production of Qassam rockets has been discovered. The previous such network was foiled in March 2002. The exposure of this cell again points to the transfer of production capabilities from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Taha learned how to manufacture the rockets from the activists in the Gaza Strip.

During the “period of calm”, the I.D.F. discovered a Hamas network in Northern Samaria, which was manufacturing Qassam rockets to threaten Israeli towns situated on the other side of the security fence. On the night of 25th January 2005, eleven members of the terror network in the Silat Al Hartia village in North Jenin were arrested. Another activist from Al Yamon village (near Jenin) was also arrested. Later, two additional members belonging to the network were arrested. The activities of the arrested men included, among other things, production of Qassam rockets and the establishment of an explosives laboratory.

During the interrogation of the Hamas activists, a wide-scale operation was exposed, which was guided and funded by senior members of the Hamas terror organization outside the Palestinian Territories. The network obtained the raw materials for the manufacture of Qassam rockets and purchased the equipment required to produce explosives. The investigation uncovered a cache of instruction manuals for the production of arms and Qassam rockets in a house belonging to Haled Muhamad Haled Zayud, a Hamas activist in Silat Al Hartia village.

Later, Atzem Shafik Abd Al-Khader Samar was also arrested. During his interrogation, it became evident that he had manufactured explosives for the terror network. He was responsible for the production of ammunition, Qassam rockets and powerful explosive devices. Atzem’s interrogation also revealed that he had succeeded in manufacturing several rockets and had even carried out launch trials. He confessed that there were Qassam rockets ready for launching stored in a secret cache owned by him, as well as a suitcase containing electrical charges, pipe bombs, chemical substances, fertilizer, laboratory test tubes and bottles used to produce explosives.

On 17 August 2004, the I.D.F. discovered Qassam rocket parts and instruction manuals on how to assemble and operate the rockets in the Nablus Kasbah .The rockets were in an advanced stage of assembly, but without warheads. An explosives laboratory was discovered in Al-Yamon village on 2 March 2005 and detonated by military sappers. It contained the improvised body of a Qassam rocket, seven pipe-bombs, three sacks of fertilizer, containers of explosives, glass laboratory test-tubes and laboratory equipment.

Motivation versus operational capability

The accumulated open-source information clearly points to the Hamas’ extremely high motivation to transfer its successful capabilities from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Hamas analyzes and understand the I.D.F’s limitations in thwarting and dismantling the Qassam networks in the Gaza Strip, as well as the very limited ability to create a technological response. The psychological effect on the Israeli civilian population exposed to the rocket attacks on Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip has a strategic importance as a lever for putting pressure on the Israeli public and decision-makers.

Hamas believes that they have succeeded in eroding Israel’s deterrent capability, while wiping out the “red lines” which Israel had declared over the years of the conflict. Israel’s Prime Minister and Minister of Defense did indeed state that the launching of rockets on Israeli settlements within the Green Line would be the “crossing of a red line” which would result in a particularly harsh Israeli response, but this threat has remained hanging in the air. It is possible that this has harmed Israel’s deterrent capability regarding the launching of Qassam rockets. This would only strengthened Hamas’ motivation to create a similar reality in the West Bank regarding the civilian homefront and the “soft underbelly” of the State of Israel.

Hamas’ identification of the strategic benefits of the Qassam rockets and the accumulated lessons learned from the Hizballah have together resulted in the perception that ballistic weapons should be used in the West Bank. For this reason, the organization has been striving to achieve operational capabilities in this sphere from the end of 2001.

As regards their ability to achieve the means to put these aspirations into practice, the Hamas in Judea and Samaria have experienced ongoing difficulties in establishing production networks for an operational rocket formation. In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas network is mainly based on the ability to smuggle arms and raw materials through the tunnels in the Rafah area and on a network of workshops which complete the production. However, the situation in Judea and Samaria is different. The lack of an “umbilical” to smuggle raw materials from outside the area complicates their ability to establish a logistical infrastructure and obliges the organization to develop independent production capabilities based on existing resources. Until now, several failed attempts to launch experimental rockets from Northern Samaria have been identified and concurrently, a number of activists’ networks and explosives laboratories used to produce the rockets have been exposed. Hamas operational capability, at the present stage, is not on a par with its level of motivation, although a concerted effort is being made by the organization to bridge the gap.


1. Ha’aretz, Daily newspaper, 27th January 2002.