A select group of Palestinian terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad recently traveled to Iran to undergo "extensive military training" in operating "sophisticated" anti-tank missiles, according to an Israeli newspaper. Quoting unnamed IDF sources, The Jerusalem Post reports on the training and the terrorists' improved arsenal:
The IDF believes that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have obtained several hundred advanced Russian-made antitank missiles – such as the Kornet and the Fagot – which have a range of more than 4 kilometers and are capable of penetrating armored personnel carriers and some IDF tanks.
Terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip had a small number of these missiles ahead of Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s offensive against Hamas in 2009 – but only used them in a handful of known instances.
“They were not trained well then, and as a result, the missiles were not effective,” a senior IDF officer explained this week. “Since then, the groups have significantly increased the stockpile and have also sent specific terrorists to Iran for extensive training where they became anti-tank missile experts.”
The Post says this new-found expertise was seen earlier this year when Hamas fired a Kornet anti-tank missile from a distance of 3 kilometers at a school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy. Defense sources told the Post that Gaza terrorists purchase the anti-tank missiles via Syria, which buys them from Russia or from black market arms dealers. The weapons are smuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt.
“The Gaza Strip is completely different today than what it was almost three years ago,” a senior defense official said. “The amounts of weaponry are significantly higher as well as the type of weaponry and its sophistication.”
To face this threat, Israel has been investing in new systems to protect its Merkava tanks, most prominently the Trophy active protection system. This video from manufacturer Rafael describes the system, which includes protection against multiple incoming missiles and an ability to identify the source of hostile fire:
As The Blaze reported last month, Hamas recently smuggled “relatively advanced Russian missiles” looted from Libyan military warehouses into Gaza, upgrading the anti-aircraft capability of the Islamist Palestinian terrorist group. The anti-tank training supported by Iranian personnel and treasure is another example of how Hamas and Islamic Jihad are investing unsparingly in new and improved means to both attack Israeli civilians and to counter future IDF actions against them.