War in Gaza: Where do Israel and Hamas get their weapons?

The fighting continue between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas militants in and around Gaza. The death toll continues to rise, but Where do the weapons still come from?

The Israeli government estimates that Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7, 2023, killed 1,200 people in Israel.

Since then, both sides have fired missiles, rockets, mortars and other weapons at each other. According to the United Nations, Israeli missiles and bombs have killed more than 25 thousand people in Gaza. Hamas has launched more than 13,000 rockets and mortar shells into Israel and killed 189 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers.

As a student of the global defense industry and the international arms trade, I see that both Israel and Hamas They make some of their own weapons and source the rest from suppliers in other nations.

How does Israel’s arms supply work?

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been well aware that it is surrounded by hostile countries with many more inhabitants. Its defense strategy has emphasized self-reliance and advanced technology. This philosophy has been reinforced and refined by the nation’s experience in previous wars of 1948-49, 1956, 1967 and 1973, as well as previous conflicts in Gaza and the West Bank.

And its defense spending coincides with this priority. In 2022, Israel will spend 4.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, a proportion that was the lowest in decades, but more per person ($2,623) than any other country except Qatar.

For a small countryIsrael has a highly regarded defense industry, which can increase production in a short time in case fighting increases. Three Israeli companies are among the world’s top 100 arms producers: Elbit Systems makes ammunition and artillery; Israel Aerospace Industries produces unmanned aerial vehicles; and Rafael manufactures air defense systems. Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries collaborated to develop the prestigious Iron Dom missile defense system. The United States provided development assistance and approximately half of Iron Dome’s components are manufactured in the United States.

Led by those companies, Israel has gone from being a net arms importer to the tenth largest arms exporter in the world.

Much of its success in the arms industry is a result of entrepreneurship and innovation within the broader economy, as well as civil-military ties. Since most Israelis must serve in the military, they develop leadership and decision making at an early age. They are also often assigned tasks with high levels of responsibility. All of this contributes to the country’s entrepreneurial and entrepreneurial culture.

Israel also imports weapons from other countries. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfer database, 68 percent of Israel’s arms imports between 2013 and 2022 came from the United States.

Another 28 percent came from Germany. Imports are partly financed with $3.3 billion of military aid provided annually by the United States, along with $500 million for missile defense cooperation.

Since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas, the United States has provided more than 5 thousand ammunition MK-84, a 2 thousand pound type of bomb. By the end of December 2023, the United States had sent artillery shells, armored vehicles and basic combat tools to Israel, delivered in 230 cargo planes and 20 ships.

US military aid to Israel also includes stockpiled weapons. For years, the Pentagon has stockpiled weapons in Israel, presumably for use by the US military. But the United States has allowed Israel to withdraw some of these supplies during the Gaza conflict.

In fact, the United States has ordered some of these stored weapons to be sent to Ukraine, allowing those warehouses in Israel to be replenished with more advanced equipment. Less sophisticated bombs and bullets sent to Ukraine will free up space, which will be filled with precision-guided munitions from the United States.

Where does Hamas’s weapons supply come from?

In response to Israeli blockades, Hamas has built an elaborate and extensive complex of tunnels under Gaza and across the Egyptian border. Hamas obtains most of its weapons from Iran. The weapons are transported through Egypt and smuggled into Gaza through tunnels.

But Hamas’ weapons also include rifles AK-47 assault rifles from China and Russia, and rocket-propelled grenades made in North Korea and Bulgaria.

In the murky global arms trade, it can be difficult to determine who is selling weapons to whom. A weapon manufactured in one country could end up in the hands of Hamas through one or more intermediary countries. Like non-military goods, imitation weapons are also part of the arms business.

Hamas fighters are using a variety of Soviet-era weapons designs that have been copied and manufactured by China and Iran.

Hamas even manufactures some weapons in Gaza. Local factories, some of which are located inside underground tunnels, produce mortars, rockets, rifles and bullets.

Some countries, such as Russia, give Hamas permission to imitate their products. Iran trains Gaza-based engineers in design and production techniques. Ironically, when the Israeli army destroys buildings and equipment in Gaza, Hamas factories recycle material from the ruins to make weapons.

As the war progresses, Israel will likely be in a position to replenish its depleted weapons, as long as Washington continues to provide political and military support. But now that Israel occupies much of Gaza, Hamas will find it much harder to recharge.

*To read this note on the original site, Click here.

*Written by Terrence Guay, Clinical Professor of International Business; Director of the Center for Global Business Studies and Associate Dean of International Programs, Penn State

*The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.