Analysis: The man behind the Hamas military industry

The Abu Sisi indictment provides insight into the Hamas military wing and how it has turned into a military one would expect to see in a country.

By
April 4, 2011 23:41
3 minute read.
A Palestinian terrorist fires a rocket into Israel

Palestinian terrorist 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Israel has Rafael, Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries. Hamas has Dirar Abu Sisi, the so-called “Rocket Godfather” of the Gaza Strip.

In 2005, Hamas’s Kassam rockets had a range of about 6 kilometers.

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Shin Bet files indictment against ‘rocket godfather’

Later that year, the range jumped to 15 km., and then in 2007 to 22 km.

In 2002, Hamas’s domestically manufactured anti-tank missile known as “Yassin” was capable of penetrating 6 cm of armor. By 2008, it could penetrate 26 cm.

The allegations raised against Abu Sisi in the Beersheba District Court on Monday tell the story of a different kind of terrorist – not the one who opens fire at IDF troops or plants bombs along the Gaza border, but of the brains behind it all.

Abu Sisi appears, from the indictment, to have been a critical asset for Hamas, whose recruitment into the ranks of Izzadin Kassam in 2002 helped turn a terrorist organization once notorious for suicide bombers into a military force with capabilities of strategic implications for the State of Israel.



As Israel continues to call on the United Nations to dismiss the Goldstone Report – following Judge Richard Goldstone’s retraction over the weekend – one cannot help but think that had it not been for Abu Sisi, Israel might not have been forced to embark on Operation Cast Lead in 2009, since the rocket threat against Israel would not have been as severe.

But that would be naïve. Had it not been Abu Sisi, Hamas would have obtained its military technology elsewhere, either by smuggling in larger amounts of longer-range missiles from Iran and Syria or by recruiting a different Palestinian engineer.

What made Abu Sisi unique was that he had studied in Ukraine in the late 1990s in the Kharkov military academy, under a professor who had been one of the key developers in the Soviet Scud missile program.

There, Abu Sisi was allowed to sit in on classes and learn about missile design, boosters, stabilizers and different power sources.

Monday’s indictment against Abu Sisi is also unique. First, it is longer than most indictments filed in Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) investigations and goes into extreme detail – such as the exact number of centimeters of armor the anti-tank missiles he developed can penetrate – as if the prosecution or the Shin Bet felt like it needed to justify the saga behind his arrest.

Second, it provides unprecedented insight into the Hamas military wing and how it has turned into a military one would expect to see in a country – not just with brigades, battalions and special forces, but also with an in-house defense industry.

Hamas’s interest in establishing a Gaza-based weapons production capability is likely a sign of the organization’s ultimate desire to become independent one day of its patrons in Tehran and Damascus. It could also be a sign of Hamas concern that one day Israel, Egypt and the rest of the world will begin to take more effective steps to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza, meaning that its supply from Iran will slow down.

It is unclear what effect the removal of Abu Sisi from Gaza will have on Hamas and its military capabilities. Was he working on developing a new weapon for Hamas? Has he already trained replacements and successors? In addition, was this history of his – as revealed in the indictment – enough to justify an operation to capture Abu Sisi in Ukraine, as foreign reports suggest Israel did? This might have been the case. Many of the details surrounding him and his arrest are still banned for publication.

Either way, as Abu Sisi’s story demonstrates, half of the country is already within range of Hamas’s rockets. The question now is whether the IDF can deter Hamas from firing them.


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