From ‘Qassam 1’ to ‘Ayash250’: How the Palestinian Resistance in Gaza Evolved

Hamas fighters in Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

About 20 years ago, the Palestinian Resistance fired a single rocket into Israel. It was called ‘Qassam1’. The attempt of hitting back at Israel, after decades of complete Israeli military dominance, seemed, although humble, also extraordinary. 

The range of that missile did not exceed 3 kilometers. Nearly two decades later, specifically in May 2021, a rocket named ‘Ayash250’ has done the unexpected.

‘Ayash250’ has managed to hit the Ramon airport near the Israeli border with Jordan, 220 kilometers from Gaza. Despite Israel’s insistence that the war has renewed Israel’s ‘deterrence’, Israeli leaders understood that the rules of the game have changed.

‘Ayash250’ belongs to an arsenal owned by the Hamas Resistance movement in Gaza. Together with the Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, Al Qassam, are estimated to own 14,000 rockets. This number, offered by Palestinian and Arab media, of course cannot be verified, as the Resistance is extremely protective of any information regarding its capabilities.

What is more important than the actual number is the range and size of these rockets. 

The progress of the development of Resistance capabilities in Gaza is astonishing by any standards. After all, Gaza has been under a hermetic Israeli, in fact, Israeli-Egyptian siege, since 2006-07. No one had expected, not even Israel’s most pessimistic strategists, that a siege of this nature would not be an obstacle in the face of Palestinians in their growing build-up of ways to fight back. 

Any visitor to Gaza will quickly understand why the besieged Strip is referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison. Israeli military drones never stop buzzing in the sky for a single second. The Israeli navy dots the Gaza horizon, blemishing what would have otherwise been a beautiful view of the Mediterranean. 

And of course, massive military encampments, along with hundreds of snipers, are surrounding all the regions separating Gaza from Israel.

Yet, somehow, the Resistance managed to develop these rockets anyway. 

Between ‘Qassam1’ and ‘Ayash250’, a lot has taken place. The range of Palestinian rockets has increased from 3 kilometers (Qassam1) to 15-17 (Qassam3), all the way to the 160 kilometer-range (R160) in the 2014 war; and ultimately, to ‘Ayash 250’. 

Every step of the way, the Israelis were watching. 

The numerous assassinations carried out against Palestinian Resistance leaders in Gaza were mostly to target those who developed this missile technology. And every time a Palestinian commander is killed, Israel would celebrate that it has managed to slow down the evolution of the Resistance. Yet, somehow, every single time, the Resistance has emerged stronger. 

So, Israel has worked to isolate certain groups in Gaza, so as not to invite the wrath of the Resistance all at once. It has done so successfully in 2019, when it targeted the Islamic Jihad alone. Hamas did not respond for its own tactical reasons. Israel understood this as a victory.

That victory, however, was short-lived, as the current Israeli war on Gaza, starting on the dawn of Tuesday, May 9, was also meant to isolate the Islamic Jihad. The Palestinian response seemed more strategic than ever before. After 36 hours of waiting, following the killing of three Islamic Jihad leaders and their families, the Palestinian Resistance responded, in unison, with hundreds of rockets, with ranges that, thus far, reach 60 kilometers. 

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are speaking of the restoration of Israel’s ‘deterrence’, the facts on the ground speak of something else entirely. 

Most of the Israeli population in the South is currently hiding in fortified shelters. Much of the Israeli economy has been grinding to a halt. Even Israeli ministers have been caught on camera running in panic to hide in basements as the rockets of the Resistance are spotted everywhere. 

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Of course, many Palestinians have been killed, but this has unfortunately become the routine of Israeli wars that rarely distinguish between a military commander and a 5-year-old child, like Tamim Daoud. 

Of course, Netanyahu will try to cash on his supposed achievements. His far-right allies are, too, likely to take a victory lap. But all evidence on the ground shows that the Gaza Resistance is undefeated. On the contrary, it is likely to develop in the coming months and years, leaving Israel with only two options: to continue with its politically-motivated wars unhindered or to understand that the Palestinian Resistance will only end when Palestinians are finally free. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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