Hamas has developed the ability to locally manufacture rockets with the range to hit Israel’s heartland, including Tel Aviv, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said on Monday.
Speaking to a joint conference of the Defense Ministry and the Manufacturers Association of Israel, Gantz explained that the terror organization, which controls the Gaza Strip, is producing its own 200 millimeter caliber missiles, known as the M-75, which can strike to about 80 kilometers (50 miles).
“The Gaza Strip is relatively quiet after [November's Operation] Pillar of Defense. The level of deterrent is very high,” Gantz said. “However, the process of build-up has not stopped. Whether it is smuggling activities — which have been slightly reduced — or the local manufacture that is developing all over that area.”
A number of M-75 rockets, based on Iranian technology, were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during Pillar of Defense, which was launched by Israel to halt persistent rocket fire against towns near the Gaza border. Most of the missiles were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor.
The technology was relatively new at the time, but Gantz said the Strip had continued to develop its manufacturing of the rocket.
The rocket became something of a rallying point for Gazans, whose missile range had been limited to Israel’s south in previous engagements. Visiting the Strip after a ceasefire, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal popped out of a model of the rocket on a stage.
Gantz also commented on the deteriorating situation in Sinai, where terrorists killed three people in an attack on a bus on Sunday.
“In Sinai we can see terror organizations increasingly established, and we are following that story on a daily basis because things are happening there all the time that are certainly of interest to us,” Gantz said.
Last month a barrage of six rockets were fired out of Gaza at southern Israel. Four landed in open areas and two were shot down by the Iron Dome system. The rockets were thought to be fired by Islamic Jihad, which is competing with Hamas for control of the Strip.