Thursday, January 22, 2009

Important Articles about Rockets and Smuggling Into Gaza

Latest rockets manufactured in China Jan. 1, 2009 by Yaakov Katz,


The Grad-model Katyusha rockets that were fired into Beersheba on Wednesday were manufactured in China and smuggled into Gaza after the Sinai border wall was blown up by Hamas in January, defense officials said.

The Chinese rockets have a range of 40 kilometers. They are very similar to the 122 mm Soviet-made Katyusha that was used extensively by Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War and are slightly more sophisticated than an Iranian-made Grad-model Katyusha that is also in Hamas's arsenal.

The four rockets that hit Beersheba this week were filled with metal balls that can scatter up to 100 meters from the impact site, officials said. These rockets have also been fired into Ashkelon and Ashdod.

The three countries that manufacture Grad-model Katyushas are China, Russia and Bulgaria.

Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post the rockets were smuggled into Gaza in the 12 days after Hamas blew a hole in the border wall between Gaza and Egypt on January 23.

"Huge quantities of weaponry were smuggled into Gaza then from above ground, including the Grad rockets," an official said, adding that even after the border wall was sealed, Hamas continued to smuggle the long-range rockets into Gaza via tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor.

From China, the rockets make several stops before reaching Gaza. In many cases, officials said, they are bought by Iran or Hizbullah and then transferred to Sinai.

In some instances, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has learned of weapons that came from Yemen and Eritrea, were moved to Sudan, then north to Egypt, and finally smuggled into Gaza.

"This is a complicated smuggling system that involves many different people around the world," one official said.

The Grad-model Katyushas, officials said, were packed with large quantities of ammonia and less-than-maximum explosives to increase their durability and lethality.

Last Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that Cairo was not responsible for Hamas's military buildup and that the long-range rockets in the group's arsenal were not smuggled through the tunnels from Sinai.

Defense officials said Wednesday that Aboul Gheit was partially correct, in that some of the rockets did not come into Gaza through tunnels, but that they did enter the Strip from Sinai.


Hamas Rockets Made in China

By Ofir Kaminkovski

Epoch Times Staff Jan 1, 2009

Palestinian missiles being launched from northern Gaza towards an Israeli town on Dec. 30, 2008. Rockets fired by the Hamas are reportedly contraband from mainland China. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV, Israel—The Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports that the rockets fired by the Hamas are contraband from mainland China. Hamas is a terrorist organization that took control on the Gaza strip by force in 2007.

"It was revealed that the rockets were contraband from China. The experts who liquidated the rockets saw that it was made in China," said Hagai Huberman, an Israeli Military Correspondent to the Makor Rishon newspaper, to New Tang Dynasty Television.

Chinese communist authorities have been accused of selling weapons to Hamas before. In 2006 a Paris-based intelligence newsletter reported that Chinese Ministry of State Security official, Gong Xiaosheng, worked with Hamas militants.

In a separate case in August this year, a group of Israeli terror victims alleged that the Bank of China assisted terrorist attacks by allowing the transfer of money to Hamas. According to their lawyer Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, Chinese authorities were informed about it but did nothing to stop it. Last Updated Jan 1, 2009

Palestinians Use Extended Range 122mm Rockets from China for Long-Range Attacks.

By mid-day Wednesday (Dec. 31, 2008) the Palestinians fired more than 50 rockets at Israeli cities and settlements wounding five people. Some of these rockets reached as far as Beer Sheba, almost 40 km from the Gaza border. The Palestinians have already reached this range when the towns of Ashdod and Yavneh were attacked two days ago, killing one person and wounding several others. According to the Deputy Commander of Israel's Home Front Command, Brig. General Abraham Ben David, these attacks represent a new dimension for the enemy's capability but are probably at the limit of the Palestinian rockets.

Previously Palestinian Hamas relied on the 'homemade' Qasam or Iranian produced Grad rockets, enhanced at the Hamas workshops. These rockets could reach 11-12 miles into the Israeli area. Today, Israel officially confirmed today that the rocket recently fired against Beer Sheba were not Qasam or standard Grads rockets that were already familiar to the Israelis, but standard 122mm produced by China. Iran is also producing 122mm rockets, but the types produced by Iran are not capable of reaching a range of 30-40km (about 19 – 25 miles).

The Chinese rockets referred to by General Ben-David, are most likely rockets of the 122mm version of the WeiShi family of rocket, ( WS-1E) developed and produced by the Sichuan Aerospace Industry Corporation (SCAIC) also known as Base 062. According to Sinodefence website, these rockets didn't enter production, yet apparently, some reached Hamas and exploded in Beer Sheba. WS-1E was developed for the Type 90 truck mounted multiple rocket launchers. Several versions of different calibers of the WeiShi artillery rocket systems are employed by the People's Republic of China Army and were widely exported to third world countries.

The WS-1E rocket measures about 2.9 meters (depending on type and range) and weighs 61-74 kg. Unlike the ubiquitous Grad, these Chinese rockets are using both fin and spin stabilization to achieve high accuracy and low dispersion of multiple rockets groups. Unlike the Grad which uses a fixed amount of propellant and warhead, designed for maximum range of 20 km, the Chinese rocket uses a modular design, where some of the payload can be exchanged for propellant.

The two versions of this rocket are the 20km and 40km. Both types use a single chamber FG-42/43 solid rocket propellant uses an advanced hydroxy-terminated polybutadine (HTPB) composition. The rocket's payload consists of a modular warhead weighing 18-22kg in the standard version (20-40km version) or 26-28kg in the short range version (10-12kg). The standard high explosive (RDX-based) warhead can be enhanced with the ZDB-2 blast fragmentation warhead, comprising high explosive charge, containing reduced RDX-based explosive charge, over 4,000 steel ball matrix liner and prefabricated fragmentation sheath, extending lethal effect over a radius of about 100 meters. A thermobaric warhead is also available, comprising of a 17kg warhead containing 6.2 kg of energetic composition and 1,500 steel balls for dual-purpose effect optimized for urban warfare, and the SZB-1 anti-personnel and anti-armor mines containing submunitions for area denial attack.


US-funded program fails to stop smuggling through tunnels at Egypt-Gaza border
By ANNA JOHNSON and OMAR SINAN, Associated Press January 7, 2009 Minneapolis St. Paul, Minnisotta

RAFAH, Egypt - Angry at Hamas' ability to fire rockets at Israel, the United States last year allocated $23 million to help train Egyptian officials to stop the smuggling into Gaza through tunnels at a border plagued by crisis and corruption.

Months later, there is little noticeable effect: Smuggling has continued at a robust pace, allowing Hamas militants in Gaza to gain rockets to shoot at Israeli citizens. Israel's military says about 300 tunnels ran under the Gaza-Egypt border before its military offensive began Dec. 27. Since then, Israel has bombed dozens of them.

The story of the U.S.-funded program and its lack of impact on the problem is a cautionary tale of how hard it has been to control Gaza's border with Egypt — at a time when patrolling that frontier and stopping the weapons flow are once again hot issues as mediators seek a cease-fire in Gaza.

Previous attempts to close the tunnels have largely failed, partly because of the mutual mistrust between Israel and Egypt and partly because of Egypt's inability to rein in corruption and alleviate poverty in the Sinai. The region near Gaza is home to tens of thousands of mostly disaffected Bedouin. Many of these nomads earn their living through smuggling.

Some critics say Egypt has never undertaken a truly robust effort because it hopes to use the issue to gain something it wants in turn: the right to deploy troops at the Sinai border, which was denied under the 1979 Camp David Accords. Egyptian officials also have been leery of making the border with Gaza truly normal and functioning, fearing an influx of Palestinian militancy into Egypt.

President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, would not point fingers when asked Tuesday whether Egypt had done enough to stop the smuggling of rockets.

"Preventing them is very hard because Hamas clearly wants them, and countries like Iran and Syria clearly want to supply them," he said. More work also needs to be done to interdict the weapons that come from supplying nations before they get to the tunnels leading into Gaza, he said.

One former Egyptian security official who now advises the government on security issues said U.S. money alone would not stop smuggling. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

U.S. officials, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has helped train Egyptian border guards, and the Defense Department, which implements U.S. foreign military assistance programs, refused to give details of how and when the $23 million was spent.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that the U.S. is working with Egypt and said the Corps of Engineers was sharing its expertise. The embassy would provide no further details, describing the program as led by Egypt. The Ministry of Defense declined to comment immediately on the issue.

In the past, Egypt has said Palestinians in Gaza must do more to solve the problem. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed that the tunnels were not a new problem, but he denied that weapons were being smuggled.

"The tunnels have always been there. We have been trying to control them. But the tunnels are there because the crossings are closed and there is a siege and there is starvation," he told Al-Arabiya television earlier this week. "Those who say they are being used to smuggle weapons and equipment are deluded. Weapons are coming through the sea."

An Egyptian security official at the border would say only that five U.S. Army engineers arrived at the frontier in the fall — about nine months after the money was allocated by the U.S. — and stayed for a month to train Egyptian guards to use high-tech radar that can detect tunnels by locating cavities underground.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, insisted the effort boosted Egypt's ability to detect more tunnels in recent months, but would not elaborate.

Israeli military and Shin Bet security officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with defense establishment rules, say Egypt began deploying the U.S. equipment — including a form of ground-penetrating radar — only about three months ago.

The U.S.-Egypt tunnel program had its birth in American and Israeli frustration at the rocket firing by Hamas since the Palestinian militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

For the first time, Congress moved in late 2007 to put conditions on the $2 billion in aid, most of it military assistance, that Washington gives annually to Egypt — the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel. Congress voted to withhold $100 million until Egypt, among other things, stopped the flow of weapons through the tunnels.

Egypt, which dislikes conditions being put on the U.S. aid, suspected that Israel was behind the lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill and was hostile to the idea at first, according to a top local U.S. diplomat who spoke about the program at the time. The diplomat spoke only on condition of anonymity because the matter involved sensitive relations between Egypt and Israel.

Under congressional pressure, Egypt agreed in January 2008 to spend $23 million of the U.S. military aid solely on training and technical equipment to detect the tunnels.

Tunnel smuggling between Egypt and Gaza dates back to the 1980s, when Israel returned to the Sinai Desert to Egypt. But it spiraled out of control after Hamas seized power, provoking Israel and Egypt to cut the Gaza Strip off from the outside world.

Yet during the time period that Egypt promised to step up its tunnel detection last year, Hamas was able to obtain a growing number of more sophisticated, longer-range weapons, which U.S. and Israeli officials have said they believe are made of parts originating in Syria or Iran.

"A lot of the longer-range rockets that have hit Israel, those have been smuggled in over the last few months," said David Makovsky, a fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

One smuggler at the frontier town of Rafah joked about the U.S. effort.

"They spent millions and they only got a few tunnels," said the smuggler, who would not give his name for fear of arrest by Egyptian authorities.

The father of seven, who insisted he does not smuggle weapons, said smuggling is a way of life for Rafah residents, many of whom are unemployed or make less than $100 a month at their government jobs. Smuggling a box of cigarettes can bring $70, a box of bullets $200, he said.

Even if caught, a smuggler can easily pay off border guards, many of whom earn even less, he said. Rebuilding the tunnels if they are destroyed also is easy, he said.

"All of Rafah relies on the tunneling business. For God sake, look at all the modern cars in this town, which is full of unemployed people," he said.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the smuggling often is a family business — worked by people whose relatives live on both sides of the border.

The tunnels are back in the news again as new efforts emerge to end the Gaza fighting and solve the political standoff.

International Mideast envoy Tony Blair said this week that arrangements to stop the smuggling would be key to any cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said as part of a plan put forth by Egypt and France, Cairo had agreed to work more on border security.

But pessimism about Egypt's political willingness or ability to stop the smuggling remains.

Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said Egypt has long lacked the political will to crack down.

"It's about changing the entire attitude, whereby you do enforcement in a very intensive and aggressive way, which we have not seen yet," Ayalon said.

Johnson reported from Cairo, Egypt, and Sinan from Rafah. Associated Press writers Ashraf Sweilman in Rafah, Salah Nasrawi in Cairo and Steve Weizman and Karin Laub in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

© 2009 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Tunnels are conduit for weapons to Gaza

Egypt Says It Needs Help to Stop Weapons Smuggling Through Tunnels Into Hamas-Run Gaza

AP News

Jul 30, 2007 18:26 EDT

Hidden inside a bedroom closet just feet from a crib and a bed, an Egyptian army officer lifted floor tiles to reveal a hole: the entrance to a tunnel for smuggling weapons extending hundreds of yards across the border into the Gaza Strip.

Tunnel entrances turn up in homes all over this border town. Another house nearby had two, one hidden in the kitchen and another in a backyard duck pen _ small holes in the earth, just wide enough for a person to crawl through, dug with homemade tools.

Egypt has been under stepped-up pressure from the United States and Israel to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza since the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of the coastal territory in June.

But Egypt says it needs help from the U.S. and Israel, including more equipment to track the many passageways dug under the border and money to deploy more guards.

"We can't stop all smuggling. We need more machines, we need double the number of border guards," Egyptian army Col. Amr Mamdouh told reporters during a rare tour of the border area Sunday.

"Anywhere you stamp your foot on the ground, you will find tunnels," he said.

The eight-mile Gaza-Egypt border is the sole land connection between the territory and the outside world not controlled by Israel, making it crucial to the West's attempts to isolate Hamas and prevent it from getting arms and money. The militant group is pressuring Cairo to at least let money slip through to bolster its rule.

Egyptian authorities are considering a plan to demolish all homes within 100 yards of the border area to prevent them from being used to hide tunnels. The owners would be compensated, Mamdouh said.

The plan has aroused anger among Rafah's Bedouin community. On Monday, some 3,000 residents protested house demolitions, throwing stones at police who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring dozens. Security officials said at least one police officer was wounded.

The United States is hoping to cut off Hamas as Washington tries to push forward the peace process between Israel and Hamas' rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government controls the West Bank.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are meeting with Arab foreign ministers Tuesday in the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik, seeking their support in the peace process. Egyptian and U.S. officials are likely to discuss border issues.

Egyptian authorities have discovered six tunnels in the border town of Rafah since Hamas took over Gaza in mid-June, after days of fierce battles with Fatah fighters loyal to Abbas, Mamdouh told reporters in Rafah.

He said the military could not say whether the rate of digging tunnels _ or discovering them _ has increased since the Hamas takeover. The Egyptians have found 138 tunnels since September 2005, when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, handing it over to Palestinian control.

After the Israeli withdrawal, Egypt beefed up its presence at the border, deploying 750 guards. The smugglers responded by digging longer tunnels, penetrating past the immediate border area.

"Weapon smugglers dig tunnels that extend from Gaza to the heart of Rafah, which is why we need guards to go beyond the border line," an Egyptian intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with agency rules.

Border crossings in Rafah have been closed since the Hamas takeover and likely won't reopen as long as the militant group remains in control. European monitors at the crossings fled during the fighting, and the official Palestinian security forces _ dominated by Abbas' Fatah faction _ have been eliminated from Gaza.

That has left Hamas guarding the border from its side. During Sunday's tour, a tent of Hamas fighters in black uniforms was visible on the Gaza side.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the group has 200 fighters at the border. He insisted Hamas was "making great efforts to protect the area" but would not comment on tunnels or smuggling.

Mamdouh, who heads a military office for liaison with international organizations, said the Egyptian side has "no contact at all with Hamas" about running the border, but said the militant group was trying to show it can control the area, which during times of closure has been plagued by violence as Palestinians try to break into or out of Gaza.

"It's very calm. They are trying to give the world a good image by keeping everything quiet on the border area," he said.

Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Hamas was still trying to smuggle weapons. "It is encouraging this and taking extensive efforts to bring this about," he said. He would not comment on Egyptian efforts to stop smuggling.

Most of the tunnels _ which are also used for drug smuggling _ are dug from the Gaza side, usually about 2 1/2 feet in diameter and extending 100 to 800 yards into Rafah, Mamdouh said. They are dug using homemade tools and sometimes even have electric lights.

Rafah's Bedouin residents are paid to allow the tunnel entryways to be hidden in their homes.

In one house, next to the Salaheddin Gate crossing, Mamdouh showed journalists the most recent discovery: a tunnel found a week ago hidden in a backyard where the family's ducks and chickens are kept.

In the house's kitchen was another hole, plugged with rocks by authorities after it was found weeks earlier. The owners of the home have fled and were sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison in a military trial.

The owner of the house where the tunnel was discovered in the bedroom closet has been captured and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Mamdouh said.

Egypt has denounced Hamas' takeover of Gaza and has joined Arab and international efforts to isolate it. But it also runs the risk of a provoking a backlash if it is seen as exacerbating the already deteriorating conditions for the 1.3 million Palestinians living in the impoverished territory.

Israel has allowed Egyptian trucks to take food aid into Gaza, along with aid passing through the Israeli side, to prevent a deepening of the humanitarian crisis there.

Some 4,000 Palestinians from Gaza have been stuck on the Egyptian side of the border since the closure. Israel has approved the return of 627 of them by passing through Israeli territory, and they began going home Sunday and Monday.

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