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Hamas militant hit Israeli Merkava tank with Al-Yasin RPG in point-blank attack

According to Meshkat on November 2, 2023, the military wing of Hamas, known as the Al-Qassam Brigades, targeted an Israeli Merkava Mk.4 Main Battle Tank (MBT) with a Yasin 105 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during an attack conducted at point-blank range to the east of Al-Zaytoun, a district located in the southern part of the city of Gaza. The attacker placed an improvised explosive device (IED) on the tank before firing a rocket at it.
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The attacker placed an improvised explosive device (IED) on the Israeli Merkava tank before firing at it with an Al-Yasin 105 RPG (Picture source: Twitter)

An analysis of the video shows three things: it is impossible to determine the extent of the damage or whether the tank was destroyed. The tank appears to be part of a convoy comprising at least two other Merkava tanks. The convoy was driving along an olive grove, unaware that a Hamas tunnel was emerging a few meters from the road.

According to the Forbes journalist David Axe on October 15, 2023, Hamas began to disseminate guidelines and strategies for exploiting the potential vulnerabilities of Merkava tanks. These guidelines include specific instructions on where to target the tank and what weapons to use. They are very reminiscent of those the Russians began to use to exploit potential vulnerabilities in the Abrams tanks used by the Ukrainians, as reported on September 25, 2023.

Their tactics involve identifying weaknesses in the tank's design, such as the rear hatch, ammunition storage, the space between the turret and hull, and a perceived vulnerability in the armor on the front side of the hull. These identified weaknesses are common across various tank models and not exclusive to the Merkava. Hamas suggests using rockets and improvised explosive devices to target these areas, exactly what happened in this precise attack reported by Meshkat.

Hamas also seeks to neutralize the Trophy active protective system, which is integrated into some Israeli Merkava Mark IV tanks. To do this, they recommend firing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) from a close range, approximately 50 yards or closer, possibly to minimize the system's reaction time. An alternative approach is to use an SPG-9 recoilless gun, relying on the projectile's high speed to potentially overcome the Trophy-equipped tank. Hezbollah, for its part, prefers to rely on its Tharallah anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), which fires two rockets in less time than it takes the Trophy APS to recharge.

Additionally, Hamas has demonstrated its ability to target Merkava tanks with drones, focusing on vulnerable areas such as the tank's engine compartment and turret bustle, where spare cannon rounds are stored, as reported by Army Recognition on October 8, 2023.

Introduced in 2004, the Al-Yasin RPG is a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher used by Hamas militants. It is named after Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Hamas movement, who was eliminated by the Israel Defense Forces in 2004. Similar to the Tharallah anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) used by Hezbollah, the Al-Yasin RPG is primarily employed to target Israeli tanks but is also used against light armored vehicles.

The design of the Al-Yasin RPG is influenced by RPG-2 and RPG-7, with some similarities to the Soviet RPG-2. It features a relatively simple design, with a divergent nozzle at the back end, similar to an RPG-7.

The Al-Yasin RPG is a 105-mm projectile with a High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) type cumulative warhead, capable of penetrating up to 200 mm equivalent of rolled homogeneous armor. It has a relatively small mass of 7 kg and a length of 95 cm. The weapon can be operated by one or two individuals depending on the situation, and it has a caliber of 40 mm. In terms of performance, the Al-Yasin RPG has an initial rocket speed of 295 m/s, a rate of fire of 3 to 4 rounds per minute, and an effective destruction range of about 100 m.

The production of the Al-Yasin RPG is believed to occur in underground facilities in the Gaza Strip, with Iranian financing through Hezbollah and the purchase of raw materials via smuggling routes through Egypt and Lebanon. It is estimated that Hamas possesses at least 2,000 units of these RPGs, although the exact number of available ammunition is not specified.


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