The long-range Hamas rockets that reached Hadera 110km north of Gaza Tuesday, July 8, have been identified as the Syrian-made M-302 Khaibar missile, that was used by Hizballah against Israel in the 2006 Lebanon war to pound Haifa. This weapon uses Iranian technology deriving from the Chinese WS-1 which has a 175 kilo warhead. Hizballah engineers posted in the Gaza Strip have since helped Hamas improve the M-302 and extend its range and accuracy. But still, even after improvements, the M-302’s main shortcoming is its lack of precision.
This was demonstrated Tuesday night when it missed substantial targets in Hadera and also, it now appears, Jerusalem, which took three rockets.
Last March, Iran tried to smuggle into the Gaza Strip an arms shipment including M-302 rockets under a cargo of cement aboard the Klos C. The ship was intercepted by Israel and the weapons seized. But other shipments must have made it through to Gaza and evidently topped up the missile arsenals of Hamas and Jihad Islami.
The Israeli government and army chiefs failed to heed this strategic increment to the Islamists’ tools of war – until Tuesday, when it emerged as a key weapon of Palestinian aggression. Hamas may be expected to continue to use the M-302 to hit Israeli targets.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note the striking differences in the war tactics pursued by Israel and Hamas. The IDF has at this stage based its military operation in Gaza on air strikes for knocking out as much as possible of the Hamas military and logistical infrastructure as well as targeting its commanders.
Hamas, lacking an air force, has launched a well-planned campaign based on heavy, escalating rocket fire which indiscriminately targets the Israeli population and was meant to be supported by limited commando raids. But the Islamists have failed to cause damage and casualties – not just because the Israelis are well prepared with shelters – because of the imprecision of their rockets, and their inability to mount more than isolated, small-scale raids, which are nowhere near the scale for tipping the balance in the contest.