HAMAS fighters likely fired North Korean weapons during their October 7 assault on Israel, a militant video and weapons seized by Israel show, despite Pyongyang’s denials that it arms the militant group.
South Korean officials, two experts on North Korean arms and an ‘Associated Press’ analysis of weapons captured on the battlefield by Israel point toward Hamas using Pyongyang’s F-7 rocket-propelled grenade, a shoulder-fired weapon that fighters typically use against
The evidence shines a light on the murky world of the illicit arms shipments that sanction-battered North Korea uses as a way to fund its own conventional and nuclear weapons programs. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers fire a single warhead and can be quickly reloaded, making them valuable weapons for guerrilla forces in running skirmishes with heavy vehicles.
The F-7 has been documented in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, said N R Jenzen-Jones, a weapons expert who works as the director of the consultancy Armament Research Services.
“North Korea has long supported Palestinian militant groups, and North Korean arms have previously been documented amongst interdicted supplies,” Jenzen-Jones told the AP. Hamas has published images of their fighters with a launcher with a rocket-propelled grenade with a distinctive red stripe across its warhead, and other design elements matching the F-7, said Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher with Small Arms Survey who wrote a guide to Pyongyang’s light weapons. “It is not a surprise to see North Korean weapons with Hamas,” Schroeder said.
The North Korean F-7 resembles the more widely distributed Soviet-era RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade, with a few noticeable differences.
Jenzen-Jones described the F-7 rocket-propelled grenade as “intended to offer a lethal effect against personnel” given its shape and payload, rather than armoured vehicles.
Weapons seized by the Israeli military and shown to journalists also included that red stripe and other design elements matching the F-7.
In a background briefing with journalists Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff specifically identified the F-7 as one of the North Korean weapons it believed Hamas used in the attack.
The Israeli military declined to answer questions from the AP about the origin and the manufacturer of those rocket-propelled grenades, saying the ongoing war with Hamas prevented it from responding.
North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment from the AP.