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South Korea intelligence accuses North Korea of arming Hamas in Gaza war.

| Defense News Army 2024

The recent developments regarding North Korea's involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict highlight a significant escalation in the region's arms dynamics. South Korean intelligence has confirmed that North Korea is supplying weapons to groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. This confirmation is supported by studies and reports from U.S. and U.N. investigators.
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North Korean-made Bulsae-2 ATGM operated by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza (Picture source: Oryx)

During the Gaza war, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) discovered significant quantities of weapons in the Gaza Strip, believed to be of North Korean origin. This discovery raised concerns about their potential use against Israel, as highlighted by Israeli Ambassador to South Korea Akiva Tor on October 16. The next day, a senior South Korean joint chiefs of staff official suggested a direct or indirect link between Hamas and North Korea in terms of arms trade, tactical guidance, and training. This assertion is backed by the discovery of North Korean F-7 rocket-propelled grenades and Bang-122 artillery shells in Hamas's arsenal, as reported by Army Recognition's editorial team on November 1, 2023.

North Korea, through its Central News Agency KCNA, denied these allegations, calling them "baseless and false rumors." They accused the United States of diverting attention from their role in the Gaza war.

On October 24, 2023, the Stimson Research Institute released a report detailing North Korea's long history of military partnership with Iran and Syria, and how its military technology eventually reached Iran's terrorist proxies, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.

Bruce Bechtol Jr., a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and current professor of political science at Angelo State University in Texas, shared his analysis with The Korea Times. He indicated that some of the rockets and launchers used by Hamas in 2014 might have been supplied by North Korea, referencing a 2014 report by The Telegraph about a secret arms deal between North Korea and Hamas. Bechtol Jr. noted that the armaments used by Hamas against Israel were relatively basic, consisting of 107mm and 122mm Katyusha rockets.

There are also concerns about Hamas deploying "Bulsae" anti-tank systems acquired from North Korea, posing an additional challenge to Israel. The Bulsae-2 anti-tank guided missile is a North Korean development, derived from the Soviet Union's Fagot system. The Soviet Union had supplied Fagot anti-tank guided weaponry to North Korea since the late 1970s and even facilitated local production of these arms within North Korea.

In summary, North Korea has maintained complex relationships with various militant groups in the Middle East, adapting to geopolitical changes while pursuing its strategic interests. Since the 1970s and 1980s, North Korea has actively supported Palestinian groups like the PLO and the PFLP by providing weapons and military training. This involvement intensified with the rise of Hamas, especially after their control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. North Korea's relationship with Hamas became more concrete during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with reports suggesting that Hamas sought military assistance from North Korea, including rockets and communication equipment.

Simultaneously, North Korea established ties with Hezbollah and the Houthis. In the 1980s, it began training Hezbollah members and assisting in the construction of military infrastructure, such as bunkers and tunnels. These relationships continued and intensified after 2000, enhanced by cooperation with Iran and Syria, particularly in missile technology transfers. Regarding the Houthis in Yemen, the use of North Korean Scud missiles from 2015 and attempts at additional military cooperation in 2016 demonstrate North Korea's extensive influence. These interactions with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis illustrate North Korea's role as an opportunistic actor in international affairs, seeking to expand its influence while earning foreign currencies.


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