Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Qassams

Ulrike Putz (pardon the German for you Yiddish speakers) visits a Gaza Rocket Factory

No matter what Israel does, the rockets from the Gaza Strip just keep coming. Young men like Abdul are the reason why.

...It's a long journey through the pitch-dark night as the taxi heads towards the secret rocket factory in the Gaza Strip. Since Abdul* and his two friends got in, it has become a life-threatening trip. The young men produce rockets for the Islamic Jihad. Day after day, their rudimentary bombs land on Israeli villages, fields and kibbutzim...

...Qassams are primitive missiles lacking any guidance system. Building one is "child's play," Abdul says: One of the team welds the rocket casings together from metal pipes, while another fills the warhead with up to three kilograms of TNT. Abdul's specialty is the last step: the rocket propulsion. He and his mates brew up the fuel out of a mixture of glucose, fertilizer and a few other chemicals, which is used to fire the rockets at distances of up to nine kilometers. Right at the end, he inserts the detonator cap, which makes the missile explode on impact. They hide the finished rockets in depots, which the launch commandos can then freely avail themselves of...

...The team can make up to 100 rockets per night shift, but today it won't be more than 10. Instead of the usual 12, only three of Abdul's men have turned up tonight. "The other guys are over in Egypt, shopping," he says...The presence of smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border have ensured that there is never a lack of supplies. "The TNT comes to us from Sudan via Egypt." Other elements arrive by boat across the sea to Gaza. "We get some from Eastern Europe." The raw materials for one large rocket cost up to €500. The money to finance the operation comes the same route as the materials. "The Israeli blockade doesn't affect us; it's just intended to plunge the people into misery."

...The rocket fuel in the cauldron is ready: a thick yellow dough. Abdul carries a spoonful outside and put it in the fire on which the tea is brewing. A flame darts up, the nitrate-sugar mixture fizzes and bubbles as it burns off. It smells like fireworks, Abdul is pleased. The mixture is ready and is poured into a plastic tube, where it is to cool down. A fuse with a long wire is embedded in the mixture, with which the rocket can be ignited later. Once the fuel has set, the plastic tube will be cut away and the yellow fuel cylinder will be placed in the Qassam casing.

Now that the first Qassam rocket of the night is practically finished, Abdul has become quieter. "Today the clouds are protecting us from the Israeli drones."...

* Name changed

No comments: