Hamas’s ‘homemade’ sniper rifle is anything but, expert says


(Screenshot from video released by Hamas)

A video depicting a sniper rifle that was purportedly manufactured by Hamas is making the rounds on the Web. The grainy footage shows the weapon before cutting to a ski mask-clad fighter firing at Israeli soldiers.

Contrary to Hamas’s claim, however, the rifle is Austrian-made and has been displayed by the militant group in the past.

“Hamas’ claim to have indigenously manufactured this rifle is totally false — from what is visible on the video, it’s clearly an Austrian Steyr HS.50 rifle,” Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center who tracks weapons use in the region, said in an e-mail.

Lister said the Steyr HS.50 is currently used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The rifle has also been displayed by Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Lister suggested that while the weapon shown in the new video could have been acquired by Hamas on the black market, it was mostly likely provided by Iran, which makes its own variant, the Sayad-2.

The HS.50 gained a degree of notoriety when, in 2007, a shipment of the weapon showed up in the hands of Iraqi insurgents who had apparently obtained the variant from Iran. Prior to the HS.50’s appearance in Iraq, the manufacturer of the weapon, Steyr, had been sanctioned by the State Department for selling 800 of the rifles to Iran in 2005.

Some reports have said that the weapon is chambered in 14.5mm and can hit targets up to 1.25 miles, or 2 kilometers, away — a claim repeated recently by the Muslim Brotherhood. The HS.50 is actually chambered in 12.7mm or .50 caliber and has a maximum effective range of just under one mile.

“While the Qassam Brigades might achieve some level of internal morale boost by claiming things like this, the blatant falsity apparent to experts suggests a level of desperation on Hamas’ part,” Lister said.

He added that Israel has been aware of these rifles in Palestinian possession, noting that it was one of the main reasons Israel established a large buffer zone for farm areas near the Gaza Strip.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a staff writer and a former Marine infantryman.

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