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inFOCUS Quarterly

Spring 2016

Israel - Beyond the Headlines


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What are Qassam Rockets?

Qassam rockets are home made projectiles made from common civilian products, including pipes made of steel, cast iron, and aluminum. The pipe is affixed at the top end with a small warhead that weighs just a few pounds. At the bottom end of the tube, a set of wings is affixed for stability, along with detonators and fuses. The warheads are usually made of homemade explosives, but now are increasingly made of higher-grade explosives. Hamas has also been adding metal shrapnel to increase the damage. The fuel used to propel the rockets is usually made of melted sugar combined with commercial fertilizer.

The explosive material is typically smuggled into the Gaza Strip through underground tunnels from Egypt. Other elements for these rockets arrive by ship to Gaza. The raw materials for one rocket can cost up to $800. The money to finance these operations, often provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran, comes via the same route as the materials.

Qassams are typically assembled in teams of two. One rocket-maker welds the rocket casings together from metal pipes. The other fills the warhead with the explosives. Next, one rocket-maker mixes the propellant fuel, while the other affixes the detonator cap, which makes the missile explode on impact.

The production of Qassam fuel is the most technical and dangerous phase of the rocket-making process. Injuries while making fuel are common. The highly combustible fuel mixture is heated under intense flame and then poured into a plastic tube to cool, where a long wire is embedded in the mixture. Once the fuel has cooled and solidified, the plastic tube is removed, and the fuel cylinder (complete with a fuse) is placed in the Qassam casing.

The rockets are usually launched from crude, hand-made scaffolds or from truck-mounted launchers. Salvos can range from one to six missiles. Due to the fact that the rockets are small, it is relatively easy for the individuals launching them to carry them from place to place, and even fire them without the use of stationary launchers.

Over the years, Hamas has improved Qassam technology. Indeed, Hamas claims to have developed three updated models since the Qassam I. However, due to the inconsistent level and grade of materials used to manufacture the rockets, not every rocket performs to the intended specifications. The most recent upgrade, the Qassam IV, is still in its trial stages. Thus, Hamas only lists three official rockets on its website.

Qassam I. This rocket weighs 77 lbs, has a diameter of 4.5 inches, a length of 6 feet, a maximum range of 1.86 miles, and contains a warhead that weighs 18 pounds. The primary target for this rocket is Sderot and its environs. The Qassam I accounts for most rockets fired to date.

Qassam II. This rocket weighs up to 88 pounds, has a diameter of 4.5 inches, a length of 6 feet, a maximum range of 4.35 miles, and contains a warhead that weighs 8.8 pounds. The Qassam II continues to hammer Sderot and its environs.

Qassam III. This rocket weighs 110 pounds, has a diameter of 4.5 inches, a length of over 8 feet, a maximum range of 6.21 miles, and contains a warhead that weighs 17.6 pounds. The Qassam III has reached Ashkelon and its surrounding areas.

Qassam IV. This rocket weighs 88-110 pounds, has a diameter of 4.5 inches, a length over 8.5 feet, a maximum range of 9 miles or more, and its warhead weighs 22 pounds. The Qassam IV has hit Ashkelon and may travel even farther as technology develops.

Hamas is believed to have stockpiled several hundred Qassam rockets with an average range of 6 miles. The group also possesses Grad rockets, which they imported to the Gaza Strip. These are rockets of Russian design, similar to the Katyusha. The Grad has a range of 12.75 miles, making it the rocket with the longest range currently available to the Palestinians.

Hamas video glorifying Qassam rockets

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