Palestinian Hamas militants likely used N. Korean weapons in Israel attack: Report

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The Palestinian militant group Hamas likely fired North Korean weapons during their October 7 assault on Israel, a militant video and weapons seized by Israel show, despite Pyongyang's denials that it sells arms to the group.

The video was analyzed by two experts on North Korean arms. Along with an Associated Press analysis of weapons captured on the battlefield and South Korean military intelligence, the video indicates that Hamas used the F-7 rocket-propelled grenade, a shoulder-fired weapon that fighters typically use against armored vehicles.

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The evidence shines a light on the murky world of the illicit arms shipments that sanction-battered North Korea uses as a way to fund its arms programs.

Rocket-propelled grenade launchers fire a single warhead and can be quickly reloaded, making them valuable weapons for forces in running skirmishes with heavy vehicles. The F-7 has been documented in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, said N.R. Jenzen-Jones, a weapons expert who works as the director of the consultancy Armament Research Services.

“North Korea has long supported Palestinian militant groups, and North Korean arms have previously been documented amongst interdicted supplies,” Jenzen-Jones told The Associated Press.

Hamas has published images of their training that show fighters with a weapon with a rocket-propelled grenade with a distinctive red stripe across its warhead, and other design elements matching the F-7, said Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher with Small Arms Survey who wrote a guide to Pyongyang’s light weapons.

“It is not a surprise to see North Korean weapons with Hamas,” Schroeder said.

The North Korean F-7 resembles the more widely distributed Soviet-era RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade, with a few noticeable differences.

A militant video examined by the AP shows one fighter carrying the F-7. Weapons seized by the Israeli military and shown to journalists also included that red stripe and other design elements matching the F-7.

In a background briefing with journalists Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff specifically identified the F-7 as one of the North Korean weapons it believed Hamas used in the attack. The Israeli military declined to answer questions from the AP about the origin and the manufacturer of those rocket-propelled grenades, saying the ongoing war with Hamas prevented it from responding.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. However, Pyongyang last week through its state-run KCNA news agency dismissed claims that Hamas used its weapons as “a groundless and false rumor” orchestrated by the United States.

Hamas propaganda videos and photos previously have shown its fighters with North Korea's Bulsae guided anti-tank missile. Jenzen-Jones said he believed, based on imagery of the weapons wielded by Hamas fighters, they also used North Korea's Type 58 self-loading rifle, a variant of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Iran also has modeled some of its ballistic missiles after North Korean variants.

Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials in Iran long have supported Hamas and have praised their assault on Israel.

In December 2009, Thai authorities grounded a North Korean cargo plane reportedly carrying 35 tons of conventional arms, including rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, as it made a refueling stop at a Bangkok airport. Thai officials then said the weapons were headed to Iran. The United States later said in 2012 the shipments interdicted by the Thais had been bound for Hamas.

North Korea also faces Western suspicions that it supplies ammunition, artillery shells and rockets to Russia to support of its war on Ukraine. The White House said last week that North Korea recently delivered more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia.

With The Associated Press

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