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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rockets on the cheap: Hamas can produce Kassam-class missiles for $400 each

GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime has succeeded in lowering the cost of missile production in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has overseen production of at least three short-range missiles fired on a daily basis into Israel. They included the Kassam-3, with a range of about 12 kilometers, the Kassam-4, with a range of up to 15 kilometers and an unidentified surface-to-surface weapon with a range of 20 kilometers and based on the BM-21 Grad rocket.

Hamas sources said the cost of producing a Kassam-class missile has dropped from nearly $500 to about $400 over the last year. They said Hamas ensured the lowering of production costs through control over the smuggling and assembly process.

The sources said the regime has reduced the cost of producing short-range missiles and rockets by up to 20 percent in 2008. The sources attributed the price decline to additional weapons tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to Egypt as well as an effective production line.

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"Today, everything has been standardized based on tried and proven techniques," the source said. "This enables us to produce reliable weapons."

Hamas's main militia ally, the Popular Resistance Committees, has contributed significantly to the regime's missile production program. PRC has produced the Nasser-4, with a range of 20 kilometers, capable of reaching the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, which contains several strategic facilities.

A leading Hamas-aligned operative responsible for missile production was identified as Abu Abir. Abu Abir, who refuses to give his real name, supervises production at several PRC workshops in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah.

"We show you this to send a message to the Israelis that we are getting stronger," Abu Abir, in a rare tour for journalists, said.

Abu Abir said the Nasser missile cost about $400 and was assembled from components found in the Gaza Strip. In one missile factory, a handful of workers, some of them university engineering students, moved quickly to produce the first of about 50 missiles that day. Each of the missiles contained a TNT warhead.

"In the past, the material we used didn't have a long life and they would begin to break down," Abu Abir said. "Now everything is from here and produced here with Islamic hands."

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