As Israel and Gaza take off the kid gloves and escalate to an uncertain outcome, what might the Jewish state have to contend with in Hamas’s and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s rocket arsenals?
Once upon a time, the Palestinian groups had to receive rockets and matériel directly from Iran or other foreign allies smuggled in by sea or across the Sinai-Gaza border. However, for some years now, both groups have used years of experience with Iranian and other rockets to develop their own versions.
Most of the rockets in the Gaza groups’ arsenals have been around since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. But some first came to light in 2019, and other shorter-range rockets have been around since 2001.
Israeli intelligence estimates – based on pieces of rockets previously fired at Israel or rockets captured by the IDF at sea on their way to Gaza – are that Hamas has dozens of rockets with a range of 100-160 km., which can cover most of the country even up to Haifa and further north.
These rockets include the R-160, the M-302D and the M302-B.
PIJ also may have a very small number of Buraq-100 rockets, which have a range of more than 100 km.
Hamas may also have hundreds of rockets with a range of 70-80 km., which would have the range to hit three critical targets: Tel Aviv and the cities within its corridor, Ben-Gurion Airport and Jerusalem. These would include the J-80, M-75, Fajr-5 and a second-generation M-75.
PIJ may have a much smaller number of Buraq-70 rockets, which have a similar range.
The next level down for Hamas is the Fajr-3 and the Sejjil-55, which have the range to reach large cities on the coast and in the center, including Rishon Lezion, Rehovot and Beit Shemesh.
Below this point, Hamas’s and PIJ’s volume of rockets shoots upward.
Israeli intelligence assesses that most of Hamas’s arsenal of 5,000 to 6,000 rockets can strike somewhere between the Gaza border communities and 40-55 km. away.
At around 40 km., different versions of the Grad rocket can reach Beersheba and Ashdod in the South.
PIJ’s Badr-3 has a similar range.
At around 10 km., different versions of the Qassam rocket can reach Ashkelon and the entire Gaza corridor.
Hamas also has a wide range of thousands of mortars that can reach Israeli villages along the Gaza border.
The disparity in Hamas’s large volume of short-range rockets versus its small number of long-range rockets is why reports of large volumes of rockets still tend to focus on Ashdod, Ashkelon and the Gaza corridor. Reports of rockets fired at more distant places, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, from 2014 until the current crisis tend to be about a very small volume of rockets.
Although Hamas is believed to have far more long-range rockets than PIJ, the Iranian proxy is estimated to have as many as 8,000 short-range rockets, meaning it has more firepower to bring to bear than even Hamas against the nearby Gaza corridor.
Hamas is estimated to have a fighting force of close to 40,000 men, whereas PIJ’s fighting force is believed to be at least 9,000.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.