Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization, has been a prominent actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. As part of their armed struggle against Israel, they use a wide range of homemade weaponry, the most notable of which is the Qassam rocket.
First introduced by Hamas in the early 2000s, the Qassam rocket is named after Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, an iconic Palestinian nationalist and religious leader. Initially, the rockets were very crude and simple in design because they were homemade and cost about $800 a pop.
However, over the years, they have evolved both in terms of design and performance. With each new iteration, Hamas increased the range of these rockets. Now, experts believe that the rockets cost about $3600 or about Rs 3,00,000 a pop.
The Qassam rockets have never had a guidance system, and it was by design. The Qassam rockets were never intended for a targeted strike. Hamas’ objective was to fire an indiscriminate number of Qassam rockets at Israel and cause maximum chaos. Whether their rockets hit civilian targets or military ones, did not matter.
What goes into making a Qassam rocket?
The Qassam rocket is basically made up of four components. First, there is the Launch tube, which is a simple steel or metal tube. These tubes are typically around 3 to 4 meters in length and are buried partially in the ground to act as launchers.
At the very top of the rocket is a very rudimentary warhead, which contains a mix of homemade explosives. The size and composition of the warhead can vary, but it is generally designed to be small, making it suitable for short-range strikes.
Then, there is a set of stabilizing fins, near the base of the rocket, which help stabilize the rocket’s flight path. These fins are made from simple materials like sheet metal or metal rods.
Finally, there is the propellant. The rocket’s propulsion system relies on a solid propellant. The exact composition of the propellant has evolved over the years, as Hamas has sought to improve the rockets’ range and accuracy.
Ease of fire has made it a favourite among West Asia terrorists
While it was the Hamas that developed the Qassam rocket, the fact that it is easy to fire has made it a favourite among terrorist and militant groups around the area.
Normally, Hamas terrorists prepare the rocket for launch. The rocket, along with its launch tube, is concealed underground or in remote locations to avoid detection by Israeli security forces.
When it’s time to launch, the rocket’s solid propellant is ignited. The propellant burns rapidly, producing a high-pressure gas that propels the rocket upward.
There is no guidance system as such so there are no definite targets. The rockets are just pointed towards the target, that is Israel, and fired. The stabilizing fins help guide the rocket’s flight path, allowing it to maintain a relatively straight trajectory towards its intended target.
The explosive warhead is designed to detonate upon impact, and cause as much damage as it can in a small area. The accuracy of Qassam rockets has historically been low on accuracy, making them more of a psychological weapon than a precision tool.
Qassam Rockets: Then and Now
Hamas has continually sought to improve the performance of its Qassam rockets. Over the years, they have made several advancements, Early Qassam rockets had a very short range, limiting their effectiveness. Hamas has gradually increased the rocket’s range, allowing them to target areas deeper within Israel. Furthermore, the explosive power of Qassam warheads has also been enhanced, allowing for more destruction.
Hamas has developed various versions of the Qassam rocket, including the Qassam-2 Qassam-3, and Qassam-4. All of these rockets have basically the same features — only the length of the rocket has been changed, which allows for more solid fuel, and therefore a longer range.
The use of homemade rockets like the Qassam poses significant challenges in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their indiscriminate nature makes them a threat to civilian populations on both sides.