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It must be almost impossible to obtain raw materials for building 1000 rockets given the situation Hamas lives in. I mean, continuous surveillance and blockades.

Where and how does Hamas obtain the technology and raw material for rockets?

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    this WP article seems like a partial answer, but doesnt go into exact details. keep in mind that they've had years to manufacture and stockpile these missiles, so even a strong, but not total, blockade will leave some gaps to be exploited. May 13 at 19:26
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, that article is behind pay-wall.
    – user366312
    May 13 at 19:38
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    It talks about building up supplies for years, smuggled missiles and homemade design guidance coming out of Hezbollah, along with notions of improved guidance mechanisms. So it partially addresses your question. But it is not conclusive enough for me to post it as a full answer. See also Qassam rocket May 13 at 19:51
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    This article is quite comprehensive on how Hamas acquired the technologies and raw materials for its weapon. jcpa.org/where-and-how-does-hamas-get-its-weapons
    – r13
    May 13 at 20:01
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Quassam is an older missile design (or rather a family of missile and a generic term for Hamas homebrew rockets). The key point is (my emphasis):

Design The utility of the Qassam rocket design is assumed to be ease and speed of manufacture, using common tools and components. To this end, the rockets are propelled by a solid mixture of sugar and potassium nitrate, a common fertilizer. The warhead is filled with smuggled or scavenged TNT and urea nitrate, another common fertilizer. The warhead's explosive material is similar to the civilian explosive ammonite.[14]

The rocket consists of a steel cylinder, containing a rectangular block of the propellant. A steel plate which forms and supports the nozzles is then spot-welded to the base of the cylinder. The warhead consists of a simple metal shell surrounding the explosives, and is triggered by a fuse constructed using a simple firearm cartridge, a spring and a nail.[14]

So it seems expressly designed to be built from agricultural type materials. Given years to stockpile, Hamas is going to have some on hand.

This Washington Post article [behind a paywall] goes on to say:

Although it has become increasingly difficult to obtain fully assembled weapons from abroad, Hamas leaders bragged on an Al Jazeera program in September that they had managed to sneak Fajr missiles and Russian Kornet antitank shells into Gaza via land and sea, al-Monitor reported.

Now, the group produces the bulk of its weapons at facilities in Gaza using homemade and smuggled materials and know-how transmitted from Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

More details:

  • Tunnels and land smuggling - Iran seems to be the agreed-upon original source - are getting interdicted more efficiently, so sea-based smuggling is taking over (in Hebrew), using drug-smuggling techniques like leaving waterproof containers adrift. Note the bit about limiting fishing access - like with agricultural inputs to explosives, there is a tension between allowing activities and goods necessary to feed Gaza's 2M people and blockading bomb inputs.

a senior naval officer believes that increasing the fishing allowable range for Gaza residents to 15 miles from the coast (as only recently decided) reflects the maximum possible border in terms of security. According to him, the range should not be further expanded, as long as it depends solely on security considerations. Weapons smuggling under the auspices of many hundreds of fishing boats departing for the Mediterranean every day.

Citing the above Memo article again:

Former Israeli General and National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror conceded that the Palestinians have succeeded in building their [military] capabilities. "Today, they have ability to build weapon systems, mainly long-distance rockets. They have something very notable and have improved their domestic production. They learn all the time and improve their abilities. We exert many efforts to know about these abilities in order to neutralise then whenever we can."

See also Al Monitor article which goes on about the importance of sea-smuggled components, as commented on by rs13. So it would seem it is a combination of shared know-how, local manufacture and smuggled components.

BTW, if confirmed, smuggling of anti-tank missiles makes it seem like Hamas is aiming for a repeat of the losses that were inflicted on Israeli tanks during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.

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    Rocket candy is the name given to that propellant in model rocketry. These are unguided devices; effectively IEDs with crude rocket motors.
    – Chris H
    May 14 at 7:56
  • Usually the distinction in an aerospace context between a missile and a rocket is that missiles have guidance, so these would not usually considered to be missiles (though I appreciate that even a paper aeroplane is a missile in the nontechnical sense once someone throws it at a target) May 15 at 17:53
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Not all rockets are fired by Hamas; there are several other factions in Gaza that also fires rockets from time to time. Among them, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Most of these militants' rockets are built in Gaza using whatever raw materials the groups have available. According to a recent article in the New York Times, they have been repurposing Israeli duds and pipes from the settlements Israel abandoned in 2005:

A 50-minute documentary broadcast by the Qatari-owned television channel Al Jazeera in September showed rare scenes of Hamas militants recovering dozens of Israeli missiles that had not detonated in previous strikes on Gaza.

They brought the remnants into what looked like a hidden manufacturing facility, carefully extracted the explosives packed inside and recycled some of the parts. The same documentary also showed militants digging up old water pipes from where Israeli settlements used to sit and repurposing the empty cylinders in the production of new rockets.

Gaza’s Rockets: A Replenished Arsenal That Vexes Israel

The rockets are unguided meaning that there are no electronics onboard controlling their flight paths. The militants also have mortars. The main difference between an unguided rocket and a mortar shell is that the latter doesn't carry its own propulsion. Therefore, it can pack more explosives, but its range is far lower.

One should note that virtually all data about Hamas rocket arsenal comes from the Israeli government. Since Israel is a party to the conflict, it has a vested interest in exaggerating the size and significance of Hamas's rocket arsenal. Norman Finkelstein writes:

Israel’s official postmortem on Protective Edge alleged that on the eve of Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), Hamas “had stockpiled over 7,000 rockets and mortars,” while on the eve of Protective Edge it “had acquired more than 10,000 rockets and mortars.” It also provided a precise breakdown of these projectiles (“6,700 rockets with a range of up to 20km,” “2,300 rockets with a range of up to 40km,” etc.). It is anyone’s guess how Israel came by such detailed information and why, if possessing it, Israel didn’t militarily preempt Hamas’s use of this terrifying weaponry. If it could ascertain the quantity and quality of these projectiles, it must also have been privy to where Hamas stockpiled them, while Israel has never shied away from launching a preemptive attack to nip in the bud an “existential” threat, real or contrived. If it didn’t launch such an attack, it was almost certainly because either Hamas didn’t possess such an arsenal or, if it did, Israel was in the dark about it.

Gaza: An Inquest Into its Martyrdom, p. ~284

According to him, most of Hamas's stockpile consists of "enhanced fireworks" or "bottle rockets":

If Hamas had indeed amassed a humungous arsenal of lethal weapons, the wonder would be that it inflicted so little death and destruction. Stealing another page from Israeli hasbara, Amnesty ascribed this miracle to Israel’s antimissile batteries: “Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system helped limit civilian casualties in many areas,” and was used “to protect civilian areas from projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip.” In fact, it was perfectly obvious from public sources that Hamas’s stockpile consisted of enhanced fireworks or “bottle rockets,” while Iron Dome saved few if any Israeli lives.

Gaza: An Inquest Into its Martyrdom, p. ~285

What’s yet more telling, it couldn’t account for the minimal Israeli property damage during Protective Edge. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website tracked on a daily basis the damage caused by Hamas rockets to civilian infrastructure. Table 5 summarizes its entries. The official Israeli postmortem on Protective Edge alleged that “several residential communities on the border with the Gaza Strip . . . were battered by rocket and mortar fire.” Yet, even allowing that a certain percentage landed in open areas, how could the thousands upon thousands of Hamas rockets have inflicted so little damage? How could only one Israeli house have been destroyed and 11 others hit or damaged by a mega barrage of rockets? The obvious and most plausible answer was that the preponderance of these so-called rockets amounted to enhanced fireworks or “bottle rockets.”

Gaza: An Inquest Into its Martyrdom, p. ~265

Finkelstein's assertion that most of Hamas's "rockets" better should be characterized as "enhanced fireworks" answers the question; primitive homemade rockets can be built with everyday household items. The answer to the follow-up question, how are Hamas able to build advanced rocketry causing so much carnage, is that they aren't. Of the thousands of rockets fired only 28 (according to Wikipedia) Israelis have been killed by them. The low amount of Israeli casualties can perhaps be explained by Israeli air raid shelters and early warning systems but, as Finkelstein argues, the equally low amount of property damage can not.

Neither can the Iron Dome explain the Hamas's rockets ineffectiveness. The effectiveness of the Iron Dome is a controversial subject with interception figures ranging from 5% to 80% or higher. Even accepting the 80% figure (which would be amazing for a missile defence system) means only a five-fold increase in carnage, which is still miniscule.

The answer to the second follow-up question, why does both Hamas and Israel pretend that Hamas's rockets are a formidable threat, is that they both benefit from it. Israel because it needs to justify its bombings of Gaza and Hamas because it lends them credibility among Palestinians. Finkelstein explains:

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Why does Hamas do it? I think part of it is because their, so to speak, claim to fame is they’re an armed resistance. They want to distinguish themselves from—distinguish themselves from the Palestinian Authority. So they claim, “We’re still resisting.” Number two, I think they really believe their own propaganda, because they see Israel saying, “You know, these rockets, they’re causing us, you know, so much damage and destruction and so forth.” I think part of it, you have to remember—no offense to them—no offense to them, but they live in a hermetically sealed society. Most of the Hamas leaders, they’re just recently out of spending 10 years in jail, 15 years in jail. They’re very inexperienced, because Israel eliminated the first line, the second line, the third line of the Hamas leadership. So, don’t attribute, you know, great strategic thinking to them. They’re living in this tiny, isolated, hermetically sealed enclave. And I think they actually have internalized a lot of the Israeli propaganda.

Norman Finkelstein: The “Big Lie” About Gaza is That the Palestinians Have Been the Aggressors

I.e Finkelstein argues that to the Gaza Palestinians, rocket warfare is a form of emperor's new clothes-like mass delusion.

However, some Palestinian leaders have described the rocket attacks as symbolic, implying some recognition of their ineffectiveness. In an open letter published in The Guardian in 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Mesha'al wrote: "The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. ... Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world." One PFLP spokesperson described them similarily: "The rockets are both a practical and a symbolic representation of our resistance to the occupier. They are a constant reminder that the occupier is in fact an occupier, ... So long as one rocket is launched at the occupier, our people, our resistance and our cause is alive." (Emphasizes mine.) It should be noted though that Khaled didn't and doesn't live in Gaza and that both his letter and the spokesperson's declaration were in English and meant for a Western audience. This view may not be shared by the Gaza-based Hamas leadership and may not be the one communicated to the people of Gaza.

It should be noted that the Gaza militants also have access to some "real" rockets which must have been smuggled in from abroad and they are improving their rocket manufacturing processes. In other words, the average or median rocket is a very different best from the best or most lethal rocket. This may explain why the media's perception of the militants' rockets is somewhat distorted. Militants don't pose with their median-sized rockets and photos in the press aren't of the destruction the median-sized rockets cause.

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    Note that Finkelstein's book is a few years old and based on a lot of conspiracy theories. The efficiency of Iron Dome has increased and proved since then. Also note that Israel is well prepared to absorb missile attacks, each apartment (apartment, not building) has its own bomb shelter and detection and alerting are super effective.
    – Rsf
    May 17 at 7:59
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    I can't find now the Hebrew analysis of his claims, but his starting point is Israel is lying, the Americans that evaluated Iron Dome are lying/wrong and only I can show you that it is inefficient. If you have patience and some Hebrew knowledge (or google translate) you can search the really good military related forum Fresh, they usually do a really good work and try to stay objective and fact based when it comes to technical discussions
    – Rsf
    May 27 at 7:41
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    This answer cites Norman Finkelstein, the author of "The Holocaust Industry", a lot. Can you cite some more reliable sources please? May 27 at 23:09
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    It seems a little strange to deduce recognition of the rockets' ineffectiveness from a statement that begins "The rockets are both a practical and a symbolic representation of our resistance"; the "symbolic" aspect doesn't detract from the "practical" aspect.
    – Zev Spitz
    Jun 1 at 6:14
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Iran has been providing more weapons to regional conflicts of late. Hamas is no exception

Israeli military expert Amir Bohbot revealed in a report published by Israel's Walla News website April 3 said that in 2006, Iran opened a route to smuggle missiles and ammunition to Hamas in the Gaza Strip through Yemen and Sudan, thousands of kilometers from the Israeli coast.

They also have known routes through tunnels to Egypt

[Rami Abu Zubaydah, an expert on Hamas military affairs] pointed out that Hamas relies on tunnels, the sea and mafia networks as ways to bring military equipment into the Gaza Strip and smuggle arms. “It has managed to evade Israeli attempts to hinder the delivery of weapons to it, across thousands of kilometers by land and sea, bypassing military bases, aviation and sea patrols,” he said. “Hamas even obtained Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems from Libya.”

The US military recently stopped a ship from Iran smuggling arms to Yemen

An American defense official told The Associated Press that the Navy’s initial investigation found the vessel came from Iran, again tying the Islamic Republic to arming the Houthis despite a United Nations arms embargo. Iran’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though Tehran has denied in the past giving the rebels weapons.

It's not unreasonable to assume some of that could have been bound for Gaza.

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  • Makes me wonder if some of the ships that were backlogged by the ship stuck in the Suez canal were carrying smuggled weapons. That would influence the timing of the attack.
    – DrSheldon
    May 16 at 6:01
  • Doesn't Israel have Gaza under a blockade? How explosives and arms be easily smuggled through the blockade? May 16 at 19:11
  • Who said anything about easy? also remember that half of Gaza is bordering Egypt and the Sinai desert which is also blockaded but less efficiently
    – Rsf
    May 17 at 7:55
  • The Gaza smuggling tunnels are so well known they have a Wikipedia entry
    – Machavity
    May 17 at 13:47

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