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Hamas weapons, tactics resemble those of NK: JCS

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Oct. 17, 2023 - 15:28

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Hamas's armed wing IIzz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades train with paragliders as they prepare for an armed air assault, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released by Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades on October 7. (Reuters) Hamas's armed wing IIzz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades train with paragliders as they prepare for an armed air assault, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released by Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades on October 7. (Reuters)

The South Korean military has assessed that the fighting doctrine and tactics utilized by Hamas might be linked to North Korea, citing their resemblance in its analysis of the battlefield tactics employed by the Palestinian militant group during last weekend's attack on Israel.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday presented its interim evaluation of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which was initiated by Hamas' surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

"Our assessment of the situation has unveiled both direct and indirect ties between Hamas and North Korea, spanning various aspects including arms trade, tactics, doctrine and training," the JCS stated in its evaluation.

The South Korean military has concluded that North Korea may have contributed to Hamas, an organization classified as a terrorist group by the United States and other Western countries, in preparing for a large-scale attack employing distinct tactics different from those used in previous battlefields.

Hamas had previously employed tactics that centered around hit-and-run attacks, as well as engaging in small-scale conflicts and rocket attacks.

However, over the past weekend, Hamas carried out unexpected attacks during holiday periods. They launched a significant number of rockets to overpower Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. In addition, Hamas conducted drone attacks that led to the destruction of various surveillance, communication and fire control systems along the border. Subsequently, they executed multi-front infiltration and engaged in attacks across sea, land and air.

"Hamas' attack methods resemble the 'asymmetric attack pattern' we anticipate from North Korea. Therefore, we presume that there is a possibility of North Korea transferring tactics and doctrine, as well as providing training support based on this observation," the JCS said.

North Korea has faced constraints regarding covert ground infiltration, largely due to South Korea's deployment of an unmanned border security system in the mid-2010s according to the JCS. In response, North Korea has intensified its training for aerial infiltration using paragliders.

For instance, in December 2016, under the direct guidance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the country publicly conducted exercises involving paragliders with the South Korean presidential office as the target.

The South Korean military expressed concerns, emphasizing that there is a possibility of such expertise being transferred to Hamas, which utilized paragliders to infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The South Korean military did not provide concrete evidence and intelligence that could prove the direct link between Hamas and North Korea. Nevertheless, the military suggested the possibility of an indirect interaction.

"North Korea has substantial and active interactions with several Middle Eastern countries and various armed groups that have close relationships with Hamas," one JCS official, who wished to remain anonymous, said during a closed-door briefing.

The official cited Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite organization, as examples.

"Consequently, there is a possibility that (the doctrine and tactics) could have been indirectly passed on to Hamas and subsequently adopted by them, taking into account these dynamics."

Israeli soldiers point to the weapons seized from Hamas. The item on the far left with red trimming is believed to be a North Korean-made F-7 rocket in the photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on Oct. 11. (IDF) Israeli soldiers point to the weapons seized from Hamas. The item on the far left with red trimming is believed to be a North Korean-made F-7 rocket in the photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on Oct. 11. (IDF)

The JCS also pointed to a potential weapons trade.

The photos recently released by the media and the Israel Defense Forces suggested that Hamas used 85-millimeter F-7 surface-to-surface high-explosive fragmentation rockets produced in North Korea during its attacks on Israel. Additionally, North Korean-made 122mm artillery shells, presumed to be weapons used by armed groups actively supporting or affiliated with Hamas, have been discovered in the vicinity of the Israeli border.

"These findings indicate an ongoing pattern of North Korea exporting various weapons to Middle Eastern countries and armed groups," the JCS said. However, the JCS clarified that it couldn't find direct evidence of weapons being exported from North Korea to Hamas.

Nevertheless, the JCS suggested that these weapons may find their way to Hamas through intermediaries, which could include countries such as Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and others, in active military exchanges with North Korea.

The JCS also reiterated its warning, stating that there is a "high chance that North Korea will employ 'Hamas-style' surprise attack tactics, which have proven effective in recent situations, in potential attacks against South Korea in the event of contingencies."

The JCS acknowledged the differences between Hamas, a non-state organization, and North Korea in terms of wartime goals and battlefield situations.

"While North Korea's situation, terrain and conditions may differ, and their combat capabilities are not identical, the country can certainly gain valuable insights and lessons from what has transpired," the unnamed senior official stated during the briefing when asked by The Korea Herald whether nuclear-armed North Korea might adopt Hamas' tactics, despite the differences.

The official clarified that North Korea's conventional forces still possess effective capabilities, even in the face of the country's potential use of nuclear weapons in contingency scenarios. North Korea has overtly declared its intent to utilize tactical nuclear weapons designed for the battlefield, including preemptive use in specific circumstances.

"Using nuclear weapons is a challenging decision, and consequently, there is a significant opportunity for North Korea to derive lessons from the utilization of their conventional forces, potentially leveraging these lessons to their advantage."

The South Korean military has affirmed its commitment to systematically enhancing and evolving its response strategies by drawing valuable insights from a comprehensive analysis of the Israel-Hamas war.