Hamas arms network down but not yet out

Haniyeh: wants to keep up the attacks (Photo: AP)

Haniyeh: wants to keep up the attacks (Photo: AP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh denied over the weekend that the terror group would agree to stop smuggling arms and missiles to Gaza through the tunnels under Rafah. Israel is demanding an end to the smuggling in the ongoing talks in Cairo over the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

A Lebanese journalist with connections to Hizbollah this week published new details on the Iranian network that supplied Hamas and other Palestinian organisations in Gaza with missiles.

According to an article by Kassem Kasir in Lebanon Now, the network was set up by Hizbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh in 2006. Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, urged the leaders of Syria and Iran to supply medium-range missiles to the groups fighting Israel in Lebanon and Gaza since there was no way they could challenge Israel on the battlefield using conventional warfare.

According to one of the reports cited by Mr Kasir, Mughniyeh was smuggled into Gaza to give guidance to Hamas and Islamic Jihad on building launch-pads for the Fajr 5 missiles, which are capable of hitting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials have acknowledged for the first time that they were the source of Hamas’s missiles. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards, General Ali Jaafari said last week that, while Iran had not supplied the Fajr 5 missiles to Hamas, they had passed on the technological know-how that allowed them to be assembled in Gaza.

While the denial flies in the face of all the evidence collected by Israeli and western intelligence services, Iran will not say that it actually supplied the missiles because that would be an admission they had used Egyptian territory to smuggle them.

However, legal authorities are now examining Jaafari’s statement and could use it to bring legal action against Iran in American courts.

Senior Israeli security sources have said following the ceasefire that they have few illusions that Hamas will not try to re-equip itself with medium-range missiles.

They point, however, to three factors that this time will make it much more difficult for Hamas to obtain the missiles. For a start, relations with Iran are tense following Hamas’s decision to close down its offices in Damascus, in protest over the bloody repression of the Syrian uprising by the Assad regime.

Israel has also greatly improved its interception of missile shipments. Operation Pillar of Defence was the second time Israel has destroyed a large terrorist missile network. The first time was at the start of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when the Israeli Air Force took out the Hizbollah Fajr 5 rockets. Israel’s repeated success at intelligence penetration of the missile networks may deter Hamas from investing huge efforts in building another one.

Last updated: 8:45pm, November 29 2012