Quick to deploy and easy to build, Hamas’s home-grown rockets can touch a few hundred thousand Israelis near Gaza, but the new danger may be how the Qassam rocket is used defend Gaza City. Qassam rockets are nothing more that flying pipe bombs, and they already reign down terror in parts of Israel. Used en masse against Israeli towns, they can have an impact. Most don’t realize how small Israel is and how compact both the populations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are. This article examines how Hamas uses its rockets today as well as how it may use them in the coming weeks as Israel enters Gaza.
Israel is a small country with a population of 9.3 million, roughly the size of New Jersey, covering an area of about 22,072 square kilometers. At its widest point, it’s about 85 miles wide. The West Bank, to the east, takes a significant portion of Israel’s territory. It also shares borders with Syria to the north, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the south, and Gaza to the southwest. Gaza is approximately 41 kilometers long, 6.5 to 7 miles wide, and has a population of about 2 million people. This geographical context plays a role in the security situation in the region since Gaza is cut off from the West Bank, but the West Bank cuts deep into Israel keeping Israel on guard. The map above provides a reference point.
Let’s talk about the majority of Hamas’s rockets. The map below shows the various ranges most of Hamas’s rockets can reach. Hamas possesses around 10,000 short-range rockets with a range of up to 20 kilometers, about 2.6% of Israel’s population. Most of these rockets are Qassam rockets, which are manufactured in small, underground facilities in the densely populated northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Most the components for a Qassam are readily available, like fertilizer or pipes ripped from local infrastructure. Each rocket is primarily composed of potassium-nitrate, sugar, a pipe, a few steel fins and some type of explosive warhead. Basically, the same propellant, potassium-nitrate and sugar are used in bottle rockets and other fireworks. The compounds are safe to keep in dry storage and easy to move. They are relatively simple, easy to fire and lack guidance systems. Qassam rockets pose a constant threat to areas in proximity to Gaza, with people having only about 15 seconds of warning when a rocket is fired. The accuracy of these rockets is limited, and their use affects areas such as Ashkelon, a sizable city located 13 kilometers north of Gaza.
Hamas has fewer rockets with a range of 40 kilometers or more. Some of these rockets, like the Iranian-produced Fadjr-5 and the Chinese-supplied WS1E, need to be smuggled into Gaza. This range puts Beer Sheba (40 km) to the east of Gaza and Ashdod (40km) to the north of Gaza within range. Similar to Qassam rockets, these long-range rockets lack guidance systems and are aimed in a general direction when fired. The M302 rocket, supplied by China and Syria, is capable of reaching a range of 100 kilometers, potentially targeting Israel’s largest population centers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The key here is that Hamas has some longer range rockets, but their bread and butter is still the Qassan.
I don’t want to marginalize the terror or damage caused by these short-range missiles, however most of Hamas’s missiles cannot target Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Hafa; Israel’s population centers unless these missiles are fired from the West Bank. In the attack by Hamas in 2021, Hamas fired 2,900 rockets killing 11 people and injuring 294. Roughly ten percent of the rockets fired caused an injury.
For the most part, Qassam attacks are essentially harassing fire. En masse, Qassam rockets are like a swarm of mosquitoes, and Israel has effectively shot down these rockets with the Iron Dome. As Israel moves into the streets of Gaza city, it is likely Hamas will change tactics and use the rockets for quick strikes against the IDF. Part of the thought here is that Qassam missiles are just easy to fire.
In a quote from a Washing Post article, Capt. Jacob Dallal, a spokesman for the IDF stated:
“Finding a Qassam missile is like finding a needle in a haystack. For militant groups, it takes a few minutes to pull it off. They run into an open area, fire and run back into the thick of the haystack.”
These small rockets are still ideal for use inside Gaza since most Qassam rockets are the size of a grown man. It only takes a small crew of two to three militants to light the rocket and run. Looking into the streets of Gaza city, I’m not sure how effective the Iron Dome will be as the missiles can fire street to street in an urban area rather than over less populated regions.
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, Hamas isn’t worried about using Palestinians as human shields. While Israel encourages Palestinians to Leave Gaza City, Hamas keeps telling them to stay. As Israeli forces move into northern Gaza, these Gaza bottle rockets become the ideal weapon for quickly deploying, firing and escaping back into the streets of Gaza City. Hamas can store and fire their rockets from the outskirts of Gaza City providing a human dome of defense for civilian clad terrorist.
Matt is a Director of Product Management for a leading mobile platform enablement company. He has traveled extensively in the United States and overseas for business and travel. His travels include India, Mexico, Europe, and Japan where he was an active blogger immediately following the Kaimashi quake. Matt enjoys spending time outdoors and capturing the world through the lens of his Nikon D90. He enjoys researching the political, economic, and historical influences of the places he visits in the world, and he commonly blogs about these experiences. Matt received a Bachelor in Computer Science at Mercer University, and is a noted speaker on innovation, holding over 150 patents. His remaining time is spent with his family going from soccer game to soccer game on the weekends.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.