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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hamas seen using new Russian weapons to break Israelis' will following invasion

TEL AVIV — Hamas has been training on a range of new Russian-origin weapons meant to incur heavy civilian casualties in any war with Israel.

A leading Israeli analyst said Hamas has been preparing its forces for an expected Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. Jonathan Spyer, a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, said Hamas was adopting Hizbullah's strategy of asymmetrical warfare meant to significantly improve its combat abilities.

"Hamas believes Israel's will can be broken through attrition and a steady toll of unexpectedly high numbers of both military and civilian casualties," Spyer said.

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Spyer said Hamas would deploy anti-tank missiles and improvised explosive devices in a bid to maintain an Israeli casualty rate of up to 10 soldiers and civilians a day in any military invasion of the Gaza Strip. He said such a casualty rate could force Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

As a result, Hamas has procured and trained on a range of missiles. Spyer cited the Russian-origin AT-3 Sagger, AT-4 Spigot, AT-5 Spandrel and AT-14 Spriggan.

Hamas was also said to have smuggled a large number of advanced RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade systems. The RPG-29 Vampir, with a range of 500 meters, could penetrate reactive armor on Israel's Merkava Mk-4 main battle tank. The Vampir is regarded as far superior to the legacy RPG-7.

[Officials said a Hamas training camp was rocked by an explosion in the central Gaza Strip. They said at least two people were killed and two others were injured in the bombing on Tuesday.

"They were conducting a holy mission," a Hamas statement said.

The official said the blast was the result of the accidental detonation of explosives in the camp near Khan Yunis. Hamas units have been trained in the assembly and operation of bombs and mines.

The camp was established in the former Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Katif. In 2005, Israel expelled the 8,000 Jews as part of the nation's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.]

In June, Hamas accelerated training and expanded a Hizbullah-type irregular force. Syper said "extensive recruitment has been taking place in the past month," with cadets absorbed into Hamas's military wing, Izzedin Kassam as well as the Executive Force. He said about 1,000 Hamas fighters have been trained in Iran and Syria in the spring of 2008.

"Hamas is seeking to create a solid shield around its Gaza fiefdom that can be turned into a weapon of attack at a time and situation of its choosing," Spyer said.

Spyer said Hamas was also producing Iranian-designed explosively-formed penetrators. He cited the Shawaz EFP, designed to penetrate 20 centimeters of steel.

Hamas has also sought to accumulate an arsenal of surface-to-air missiles. The Israeli military has assessed that Hamas has at least 60 SA-7 missiles.

"Imports from Iran and Syria and local production are all playing a role in the movement's development of its arsenal," Spyer said. [On Tuesday, Israel announced the arrest of a Hamas cell from the West Bank that was planning to launch an attack with chemical weapons. Officials said the four-member cell produced a bomb discovered in Tel Aviv in September 2007 and meant for a suicide attack.]



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