Israelis tend to get carried away by endless post mortems on long-past battles. A press leak Tuesday, Jan. 24, from a closed security cabinet war conference, that took place during the last anti-terror operation “Defensive Edge” in 2014 against Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, has resurrected old charges that the Netanyahu government had failed to appreciate the perils of Hamas’ terror tunnels.
That leak revealed Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, as having pushed with all his might for a proactive response to the Palestinian Hamas’ tunnels, whereas Moshe Ya’alon, then Defense Minister, urged restraint, backed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. For Bennett this leak represented big political kudos.
Subsequent events revealed that the prime minister was already thinking ahead and striving to end the operation in a manner that would not prejudice the close ties he was fostering with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. The hawkish Bennett was more preoccuped with the security situation of here and now.
But, as DEBKAfile notes here, the argument’s flare-up has distracted Israel’s politicians and media from a more immediate peril emanating from a contemporary version of Hamas’ tunnels, which neither Israel nor Egypt has been able to overcome: the arms smuggling tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip and their hub, the town of Rafah, which is divided between Egyptian Sinai and Hamas’ Gaza.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal that for the past three weeks, consignments of North Korean Bulsae-2- anti-tank missile have been flowing in from Libya through Sinai and the new tunnels into the hands of Hamas’ armed wing in the Gaza Strip.
Bulsae-2 is North Korea’s reverse-engineered version of the old Soviet anti-tank missile called 9K111 Fagot, which uses a so-called wired semi-automatic command to line of sight system. The guidance box mounted on the launcher tracks the missile in flight via an infrared sensor and correct its trajectory by sending signals through a wire reeled out behind it.
A laser-guided system used in anti-tank missiles has a different approach. The launcher is equipped with a laser designator, which aims a laser beam at the target, a system widely adopted in the 1980s. The missile has a rear-facing sensor that picks up the beam and makes the missile ride along it. Laser-guided anti-tank missiles have greater range compared to wire-guided ones. Fagot’s range is 2.5km, compared to 5.5km for the 9M133 Kornet, a modern laser-guided anti-tank missile developed by Russia. They are also not vulnerable to radio jamming, unlike missiles that use radio instead of wires.
Hamas already possessed this laser-guided missile in the 2014 conflict, but in very small numbers. To date, the terrorist group is estimated to have procured 1,500 Bulsae-2 missiles. This would be enough in the event of another war with Israel to lay down a dense laser-guided anti-tank screen against IDF tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Hamas personnel have been sighted training in multiple launches of the North Korean anti-tank weapons. Although the Egyptian air force conducts strikes against the Hamas underground passages passing through Rafah, the traffic carries on without pause. Hamas has sunk four or five tunnels as decoys for the one that is in actual use.