The Qassam rockets employed by Hamas have gained popularity among terrorist groups and militants in West Asia due to their simplicity in production and launching, with costs as low as Rs 3 lakhs per rocket. Nevertheless, their lack of precision has been evident in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, has played a significant role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years. In their armed campaign against Israel, they employ various homemade weapons, the most well-known being the Qassam rocket.
Hamas introduced the Qassam rocket in the early 2000s, naming it after Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a prominent Palestinian nationalist and religious figure. Initially, these rockets were quite rudimentary and basic in design since they were crafted at home and cost approximately $800 each.
“Rudimentary” means basic or simple, often referring to something in an early or undeveloped stage of development.
Nevertheless, as time passed, these rockets underwent development in design and capabilities. With each new version, Hamas extended the range of these rockets. Presently, experts estimate that the cost of these rockets is approximately $3600 or around Rs 3,00,000 each.
The Qassam rockets were intentionally designed without a guidance system. They were never meant for precision strikes. Hamas aimed to launch many Qassam rockets indiscriminately at Israel to create maximum chaos. Whether these rockets hit civilian or military targets was of no concern to them.
Components of a Qassam Rocket
1. The Qassam rocket consists of four primary components. The first is the launch tube, a basic steel or metal tube. These tubes typically measure approximately 3 to 4 meters long and are partially buried in the ground to serve as launchers.
2. At the rocket’s uppermost section lies a basic warhead containing a blend of homemade explosives. While the warhead’s size and composition can vary, it is typically constructed to be small, making it suitable for short-range attacks.
3. Next, you’ll find a group of stabilising fins positioned near the rocket’s base, aiding in maintaining the rocket’s flight stability. These fins are crafted from uncomplicated materials such as sheet metal or metal rods.
4. Last but not least, there is the propellant. The rocket’s propulsion system depends on a solid propellant. Over time, the precise composition of this propellant has evolved as Hamas worked to enhance the rockets’ range and precision.
The Simplicity of Firing: A Preferred Choice Among West Asian Terrorists
Hamas was the developer of the Qassam rocket, and its simplicity in firing has made it a preferred choice for various terrorist and militant groups in the region.
Typically, Hamas militants take the necessary steps to prepare the rocket for launch. The rocket and its launch tube are carefully concealed underground or in remote areas to evade detection by Israeli security forces.
When the moment comes to launch, the rocket’s solid fuel is ignited. This propellant burns rapidly, generating high-pressure gas that propels the rocket upward.
Since no specific guidance system exists, these rockets have no precise targets. They are typically aimed in the general direction of their target, Israel, and then fired. The stabilising fins are crucial in guiding the rocket’s flight path, helping it maintain a relatively straight trajectory toward its intended destination.
The warhead’s explosive design is intended to detonate upon impact, maximising the damage within a confined area. Historically, Qassam rockets have had limited accuracy, categorising them as more of a psychological weapon than a precision tool.
Qassam Rockets: Evolution Over Time
Hamas has been on a continuous quest to enhance the capabilities of its Qassam rockets. Over the years, they have achieved several improvements. In their early stages, Qassam rockets had a notably short range, which limited their effectiveness. However, Hamas has gradually extended the rocket’s range, enabling them to target areas deeper within Israel. Additionally, they have increased the explosive power of Qassam warheads, resulting in more destructive potential.
Hamas has introduced various versions of the Qassam rocket, including the Qassam-2, Qassam-3, and Qassam-4. These rockets share the same fundamental features, with alterations made primarily to the rocket’s length, allowing for more solid fuel and an extended range.
Homemade rockets, such as the Qassam, present considerable challenges in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their indiscriminate nature threatens civilian populations on both sides of the conflict.
Some Special Features
- They use a solid propellant made of sugar and potassium nitrate, a widely available fertiliser.
- They have a rudimentary warhead filled with smuggled or scavenged TNT and urea nitrate, another common fertiliser. The warhead is designed to be small, making it suitable for short-range strikes.
- Scavenged TNT refers to TNT (Trinitrotoluene) obtained or collected from various sources, often illicitly, rather than produced or acquired through legal and regulated means. It implies that the TNT has been acquired through scavenging or unauthorised methods.
- Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is an explosive compound commonly used for various military and industrial purposes. It is used as an explosive in constructing munitions, such as bombs, shells, and landmines. TNT is also used to demolish buildings, bridges, and other structures. Additionally, it has applications in the mining industry for blasting operations. TNT is known for its stability and reliable detonation characteristics, making it a commonly employed explosive material.
- They have no guidance system and are fired indiscriminately at Israel to cause maximum chaos. They cannot target specific military objectives in or near civilian areas and are considered a war crime and a violation of international law.
- They have evolved over the years in design and performance, with each new iteration increasing the range of the rockets. The latest version, the Qassam-4, has a range of about 16 km.
- The warhead’s weight varies depending on the rocket model, ranging from 5 kg for the Qassam-1 to 20 kg for the Qassam-4.
- The total weight of each model of Qassam rockets 1 to 4 is as follows:
- Qassam 1: 35 kg
- Qassam 2: 40 kg
- Qassam 3: 50 kg
- Qassam 4: 40-50 kg
The total weight of all four models is between 165 kg and 175 kg. This is the sum of the weights of the rocket body, the propellant, and the warhead. The warhead’s weight varies depending on the type and amount of explosive material used.