North Korea denies supplying weapons to Hamas after evidence of F-7 grenades in Israel attack

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New Delhi: North Korea has dismissed allegations that it provided weapons to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which launched a massive attack on Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking scores of hostages. The denial came after evidence emerged that some of the weapons used by Hamas fighters were likely manufactured by North Korea.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press (AP) and two experts on North Korean arms, Hamas used F-7 rocket-propelled grenades, a shoulder-fired weapon that is typically used against armored vehicles. The analysis was based on videos of Hamas militants collected by Israel and weapons captured on the battlefield. The F-7 is a North Korean version of the Chinese Type 69 grenade, which has been exported to various countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The South Korean military also confirmed that it identified the F-7 as one of the North Korean weapons that Hamas used in the attack. “We believe that Hamas obtained the F-7 from North Korea through illicit arms trade,” a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official told reporters on Tuesday.

However, the Israeli military declined to comment on the origin and source of the weapons, citing the ongoing conflict with Hamas. The Israeli military said that it was focused on defending its citizens and restoring security.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment from AP. But last week, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesperson as rejecting the claims that Hamas used its weapons and calling them “U.S. propaganda.”

The spokesperson said that North Korea “has nothing to do with the incident” and that it “supports the struggle of the Palestinian people for their legitimate rights.” The spokesperson also accused the United States of trying to “shift the blame for the worsening situation in the Middle East onto us.”

North Korea has long been under international sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs, which it considers as a deterrent against U.S. aggression. To circumvent the sanctions, North Korea has engaged in illicit arms trade with various countries and groups, including Iran, Syria, Myanmar, and Hezbollah.

According to a 2020 report by a UN panel of experts, North Korea continued to violate UN resolutions by exporting coal, importing refined petroleum, and transferring fishing rights. The report also said that North Korea maintained cooperation with Iran on long-range missile development and sought to supply small arms and light weapons to Libya, Sudan, and Yemen.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has also faced sanctions from the United States, the European Union, and other countries for its terrorist activities and rejection of Israel’s right to exist. Hamas has received financial and military support from Iran, Qatar, Turkey, and other countries in the region.

Hamas surprised Israel with a coordinated offensive on October 7, firing thousands of rockets from Gaza and infiltrating Israeli territory through tunnels and breaches in the border fence. Hamas claimed responsibility for several attacks on Israeli towns and villages, including a massacre at a kibbutz that killed 32 people. Hamas also said that it captured 199 Israeli and foreign hostages, including soldiers, civilians, journalists, and diplomats.

Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza, targeting Hamas leaders, militants, rocket launchers, tunnels, and infrastructure. Israel also imposed a total blockade on Gaza and ordered the evacuation of northern Gaza, including Gaza City. The UN warned of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than a million people have been displaced and basic services have been disrupted.

The conflict has also sparked violence in other parts of Israel and Palestine, as well as in neighboring countries. In the West Bank, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces have resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. In Lebanon, Hezbollah fired rockets at northern Israel, prompting Israeli retaliation. In Syria, Israel struck Iranian targets near Damascus after accusing Iran of supplying drones to Hamas.

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The international community has called for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to end the hostilities and address the underlying issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, both sides have rejected any mediation efforts so far and vowed to continue fighting until their demands are met.