How is an explosion in Yemen connected to Palestinian Islamic Jihad?

An Iranian unit is training both the Houthis in Yemen and Islamic Jihad in Gaza to produce their own rockets locally.

Palestinian Islamic jihad militants display rockets during a military show marking the 32nd anniversary of the organisation's founding, in the central Gaza Strip October 3, 2019. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)
Palestinian Islamic jihad militants display rockets during a military show marking the 32nd anniversary of the organisation's founding, in the central Gaza Strip October 3, 2019.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Early Monday morning, not long after a ceasefire was reached between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza, an explosion shook the city of Sanaa in Yemen. 

While the conflict in Gaza and the explosion in Yemen likely have no direct connection, the facility where the explosion was reported can be linked back to an Iranian unit that works closely with both Yemen's Houthis and the Islamic Jihad, according to independent Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon, who runs the Intelli Times blog.

The explosion reportedly hit the al-Hafa military camp, where the Houthi rebel group has missile storage and manufacturing facilities. According to the Saudi news network Al-Arabiya and Al-Ain news, the explosion was caused after a missile that was being moved exploded.

The explosion reportedly caused a second explosion in a weapons production facility at the camp as well and six Iranian and Lebanese missile experts and dozens of Houthi militia members were killed in the explosion, according to Al-Arabiya. The details of the explosion were not confirmed by Houthi officials.

Members of a special IRGC force attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)Members of a special IRGC force attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran's Unit 340

The link to the Islamic Jihad comes from the fact that the missile manufacturing facility that was hit by the explosion is linked to Unit 340 of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force. It is unclear if the Iranians reportedly killed in the explosion were part of the unit.

Unit 340 of the Quds Force is a technical department tasked with research and development and the transfer of expertise and equipment to Iranian proxies, including Hezbollah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and the Houthis.

The unit specializes in training Iran-backed militias on how to produce missiles and drones locally, lowering the need for external weapons smuggling, according to information first published by the VS Quds site, known for leaking information about Iranian activity in the Middle East and beyond.

The unit also brings members of Iran's proxies to Iran in order to train them on how to produce and use rockets.

In the Gaza Strip, the Abu Fannouna family has been identified as in charge of the project to produce rockets locally with expertise and equipment provided by Unit 340. Some of the rockets developed by the unit include the Badr-3 and the "Jihad" rocket, both used by Islamic Jihad in recent years.

Weapons manufacturing facilities destroyed in Operation Breaking Dawn

On Tuesday, the IDF stressed that it hit six weapon manufacturing sites belonging to the Islamic Jihad movement during Operation Breaking Dawn in an effort to heavily restrict the movement's ability to restock its arsenal of rockets.

Iran has been working for a number of years to provide its proxies with the capabilities to locally produce weapons, while also smuggling weapons and weapons parts to Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Gaza.

In 2019, Intelli Times revealed that Quds Force technological consultant Majid Nabab was aiding Hezbollah in forming infrastructure to improve the precision of their missiles with the help of the smuggling abilities of the Quds Force's Unit 190 which managed to smuggle fuel mixers and CNC machine intended for the production of missile parts to Lebanon.

In May, the IDF announced that it had thwarted a naval smuggling network that was bringing parts for weapons into Gaza for Hamas. The Shin Bet, Intelligence Directorate and Navy arrested three suspects on April 8 after they attempted to cross into Egyptian territorial waters from Gazan waters. One of the suspects was found to have conducted additional smuggling operations for Hamas in the past. It is unclear if the seized weapons parts originated from Iran.