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Spring 2014

Borders, Nations and Conflict

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History of the Qassam Rocket

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam

The Qassam rocket is named after the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. The rockets and the brigade are named after Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, a Syrian Islamist guerrilla who fought in the Arab revolt of the early 1930s against British military and the local Jewish population in mandatory Palestine. Qassam and two of his followers were killed in November 1935.

The use of Qassam rockets against Israeli civilians is a relatively recent development. Hamas has gained notoriety over three decades, since its inception in late 1987, by carrying out headline-grabbing suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. After a fresh round of Palestinian violence in autumn 2000, tighter Israeli security measures made it more difficult for Hamas to launch its suicide operations. Increasingly, Qassams have become Hamas' weapon of choice.

Qassams were first fired at Israeli civilian targets in October 2001. They were initially directed at Israeli citizens living in the Gaza strip before the unilateral pullout in 2005. The first Qassam to land in Israeli territory was on February 10, 2002. The number of rockets launched in recent years has increased exponentially.

Qassam Rockets Fired Per Year

Total rockets fired from 2001-2010: 4,955

Year Rockets Fired Comments
2001 4 Beginning of rocket fire on Israeli residents in Gaza
2002 35 First year that rockets hit within Israeli territory
2003 155 Smuggling from Egypt increases
2004 281 Rocket strikes in retaliation for Israeli targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders.
2005 179 108 until the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, 71 afterwards
2006 946 First year of mass production
2007 896 421 until the Hamas takeover, 475 afterwards
2008 1,752 1,199 January-June 18th
223 June 19th (beginning of the ceasefire) until December 19th
330 December 20 (beginning of Operation Cast Lead) until December 31
2009 578 428 January 1 - 31
2010 129 On March 19, a rocket landed in Netiv Ha'asara, killing a Thai man in the first rocket-related death since Operation Cast Lead.
2011 375 On April 7, a Kornet missile was fired at a school bus, killing teenager Daniel Viflic ten days later. On Aug 20, Yossi Shushan of Ofakim was killed by a Grad rocket explosion. On Oct. 29, Moshe Ami of Ashkelon was killed when shrapnel from a Grad rocket hit his car.

Note: These figures are approximates, as it is impossible to verify each and every single rocket fired.
Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The remains of Palestinian rockets that landed in Sderot. Photographer: Moshe Shai

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