N. Korea appears to be linked to Hamas in arms trade, other military areas: JCS

SEOUL, North Korea appears to be linked to the Hamas militant group in the arms trade and other military fields, and could use tactics similar to those used against Israel for a surprise attack on South Korea, a senior official at Seoul's military said Tuesday.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) made the assessment after analyzing Hamas' unprecedented attacks on Oct. 7, which blindsided Israel by firing over 5,000 rockets to bypass its Iron Dome defense system, paralyzing the early warning system and breaching the Israeli border with paragliders in the early stage of the conflict.

"Hamas is believed to be directly or indirectly linked to North Korea in various areas, such as the weapons trade, tactical guidance and training. There is a possibility that North Korea could use Hamas' attack methods for a surprise invasion of South Korea," a senior JCS official told reporters on background, asking not to be named.

Radio Free Asia, a Washington-based media outlet, earlier reported on the suspected use of North Korean weapons by Hamas fighters, citing a video featuring one of the fighters holding what resembles an F-7 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher manufactured in the North.

The military official said the F-7s, a type of high-explosive fragmentation rocket, appear to be another name for the RPG-7 produced in North Korea, without specifying whether they were provided directly to Hamas or through transactions involving other countries.

The JCS assumed the 122 mm artillery shells found near the Israeli border were exported from North Korea, considering they had the marking "Bang-122," the same as ammunition used in North Korea's artillery attacks.

"This suggests that North Korea continues to export various weapons to Middle Eastern countries and armed groups," the official said.

Pyongyang has denied allegations that its weapons were used by Hamas in the attack against Israel as "a groundless and false rumor," saying the claim was part of Washington's bid to divert the blame for the conflict from itself.

Hamas' infiltration into the Israeli territory through unconventional means, such as paragliders and drones, showed similar patterns employed by the North in the past, the JCS official said, raising speculation over Pyongyang's links to the Palestinian militant group.

As South Korea has deployed an advanced border surveillance system on front-line troops over the past decade, Pyongyang has bolstered training for airborne infiltration using paragliders.

In December 2016, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un publicly guided the demonstration of the paragliders targeting the then presidential compound Cheong Wa Dae, speculating that the North may have passed on infiltration tactics to Hamas.

Learning lessons from the conflict in the Middle East, the JCS vowed to step up coordination with the United States to effectively operate the combined surveillance assets to detect unusual signs from the North and bolster defense capabilities against its long-range artillery and drone strikes.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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