Hamas militants in Palestine are hammering out a new arms deal with communist North Korea to obtain the missiles and communication equipment the militants need to keep up their offensive against Israel, a British newspaper reports, and Hamas has already made an initial cash down payment to set the deal.
In addition, reports The Telegraph
, Israeli military commanders believe North Korean experts gave Hamas advice on building tunnels in Gaza that have allowed fighters to move their weapons undetected.
Military experts believe North Korea has had a series of invasion tunnels for years to allow it to secretly invade South Korea, reports The New York Times
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Searchers have found only four tunnels, all between 1974 and 1990 and located near the border. No more have been found, even with the South Korean military conducting thousands of drilling exercises.
Nonetheless, Israeli commanders believe Hamas has used North Korea's expertise to improve their own tunnel network from Gaza, reports The Telegraph.
An unnamed Western security source told The Telegraph that the pending deal is being brokered by a Lebanese-based trading company with close ties to the Palestinian militants.
"Hamas is looking for ways to replenish its stocks of missiles because of the large numbers it has fired at Israel in recent weeks," the security official told The Telegraph. "North Korea is an obvious place to seek supplies because Pyongyang already has close ties with a number of militant Islamist groups in the Middle East."
Hamas, like other Islamist terror groups, long ago forged close links with North Korea, which supports groups opposed to Western involvement in the Middle East. Their cooperation was confirmed back in 2009, when 35 tons of arms heading to Hamas was seized in Bangkok after a cargo plane made an emergency landing, reported The Guardian
after the shipment was stopped.
Investigators confirmed the arms cache, containing surface-to-surface rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, was heading for Iran to be shipped out to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
Also in 2009, the United Arab Emirates seized a ship believed to be carrying North Korean weapons to Iran, in what was believed to be first case of disguised cargo confiscated under tightened U.N. sanctions against the Asian country, CNN reported at the time
The Telegraph reported Saturday that Western security officials believe Hamas is trying to convince North Korea to replace the thousands of missiles it's been firing at Israel since hostilities fired up two weeks ago.
According to Israeli military intelligence, Hamas is believed to have about 10,000 rockets and mortars that include long-range rockets that can reach Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa.
Hamas' basic weapon is the Iranian Qassam rocket, which has a range of less than 10 miles. However, it had longer-ranging Katyushas that can be fired up to 30 miles away.
However, there are also M-75 and Syrian M0302 missiles, giving Hamas firing power of up to 100 miles and packing a stronger impact.
If North Korea is helping Hamas build tunnels, that doesn't only bring a tactical advantage for the militants, but can also play into psychological fears, said Gerard DeGroot, a professor of history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post
"If a target is disciplined and well fortified, like Israel, attackers have difficulty traversing the battlefield to engage it," wrote DeGroot. "By providing concealment up to the moment of engagement, tunnels are a labor-intensive but cheap alternative."
Even Yahya al-Sinwar, a Hamas political bureau member, boasted that tunnels shifted war in favor of the Palestinians, said DeGroot.
"'Today, we are the ones who invade the Israelis,'"he quoted al-Sinwar. "'They do not invade us.'"
But tunnels depend on secrecy and security, and if their exits are discovered, they could result in a massacre for the troops them, DeGroot said.
"An enemy that is underground and invisible carries a multiplier effect that corrodes morale — the threat is not so much what a few tunnel soldiers could do but rather that they might emerge anywhere, at any time," said DeGroot. "Thus, the tunnel is the perfect conduit for the delivery of terror.
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