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How To Make A Rocket.
January 16, 2009 6:42 AM   Subscribe

A Gaza journalist shows us how homemade rockets are made. More from Zouheir Alnajjar.
posted by gman (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
DIY? Really?
posted by cavalier at 6:53 AM on January 16, 2009


Not us, man. Them.
posted by gman at 6:54 AM on January 16, 2009


watch his segment on the gaza tunnels if you're not feeling claustrophobic
posted by localhuman at 7:06 AM on January 16, 2009


Yes, yes... I suppose. I like my comedy black and all, that just, oooh, chills... and I found myself cringing as the rocket launched imagining the potential death ahead of it. I wonder if they would have still published the video if it did. Documenting death and all.

My god loves me, and he's going to encourage me to kill the people my god doesn't like. Yay.
posted by cavalier at 7:06 AM on January 16, 2009


It's worth noting that the flag they had seems to indicate that they're from a group other than Hamas... quite possibly Islamic Jihad, which has black flags of various sorts.

Also worth noting... although others apparently did fire rockets a total of 15 rockets during the recent Gaza ceasefire prior to Nov. 4th -- with only one rocket fired in October -- Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, agrees that no rockets were fired by Hamas during the ceasefire prior to Israel's attack into the Gaza Strip on Nov. 4th, which killed six Hamas militants.

Indeed, only a few days ago, Yuval Stenitz, a prominent Likud member of the Israeli Knesset and the chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, admitted that Israel had been planning an attack on the people of Gaza for at least eight or nine months.

In mid-December, Hamas declared a temporary halt in their rocket attacks into Israel, and offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel refused to accept the offer.
posted by markkraft at 7:10 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, yes... I suppose. I like my comedy black and all, that just, oooh, chills... and I found myself cringing as the rocket launched imagining the potential death ahead of it.

I assume you feel the same way about U.S. weaponry, right? Since that's what the Israelis are using.
posted by delmoi at 7:11 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This journalist is not risk averse. Watching them pack explosives into a rocket with a wrench handle was interesting, to say the least; if I were the journalist I would be tempted to run or at least explain that they are doing it wrong.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 7:12 AM on January 16, 2009


Well, how homemade rockets go through the (reasonably hazardous, I presume) prelaunch fueling and arming, anyway. Looks like there was a rocket engine assembly, and a warhead assembly, ready to go, fairly finely threaded to screw together, and they looked to be in, well, not-DIY shape. Where do those parts come from?
posted by Vetinari at 7:15 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I assume you feel the same way about U.S. weaponry, right? Since that's what the Israelis are using.

Yes, delmoi. I don't care who is making the weapon and where it is going in this example.
posted by cavalier at 7:16 AM on January 16, 2009


I don't want to get into a pissing contest but the Israel side claims (1) tunnels etc being dug with the express purpose of kidnapping Israeli soldier(s), info they claim from intel. (2) most countries with enemies plan in advance moves in case needed, without such planning necessarily meaning they are seeking a war.

Gazans get weaponry via Iran; Israelis, via US and others.

The most interesting thing emerging from this mess is that there is a developing split in what once was a unified position among the Arab nations.
posted by Postroad at 7:25 AM on January 16, 2009


Why did the blindfold him, but (I assume) not the cameraman? Was the cameraman provided by rocketmakers? I may have missed that. But if he was blindfolded, the kudos to the camera guy for being able to shoot without being able to see.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2009


The parts of those rockets are entirely made from common civilian products, such as commercially available pipe. Some of the pieces, such as the casing, are welded together.

As for how Hamas uses the rockets they create, even prominent Israeli anti-terrorism sites admit that Hamas -- unlike other Palestinian organization shown in this video --

"is influenced by political considerations and its responsibilities as political ruler of the Gaza Strip. Those considerations motivate them, despite the fact that they have the most well-developed capabilities for manufacturing rockets, to adopt a policy of relative restraint." (.pdf)
posted by markkraft at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2009


'Turkish PM: Israel should be barred from UN' is pretty interesting too.
posted by gman at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2009


Contrary to Postroad's previous claims, the parts for Qassam rockets can not be shown to come from Iran.

Perhaps Postroad would be willing to show links from respected international sources outside of the Israeli media, such as the UN, to document the extent of Iran's purported weapon smuggling into Gaza?

I certainly do not deny that the Gazans have smuggled in weapons in the past, and that they get their funds from all sorts of outside sources... but what isn't clear is the actual, provable link between Iran's government and the military funding of Hamas.
posted by markkraft at 7:42 AM on January 16, 2009


Perhaps Postroad would be willing to show links from respected international sources outside of the Israeli media, such as the UN, to document the extent of Iran's purported weapon smuggling into Gaza?
The Karine A Incidient
posted by PenDevil at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2009


How To Make A Rocket that doesn't work. Bwahahahahahha.

No wonder I kept wishing that the whole thing would just blow up while they were tamping it with the wrench. Why do we glorify murderous assholes? On both sides?
posted by sfts2 at 8:02 AM on January 16, 2009


Where do those parts come from?

Saddam Hussein's supplying them, isn't he?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:17 AM on January 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


PenDevil, as you might note, I did ask for claims that did not originate in Israel, and that involved Hamas and Gaza, and not the Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, shortly after the smuggling operation came to light, American officials suggested that the weapons were intended for Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shi'ite organisation, rather than the Palestinians. Israel initially dismissed the idea, but defence sources later told Ha'aretz newspaper it was "certainly possible that some of the arms were earmarked for Hizbullah", and other sources indicate that the intended destination may have been Lebanon.

In the article cited above, it says "Israel has so far failed to substantiate its crucial claim that the Karine A belongs to the Palestinian Authority. . . It is now clear that when Israel made this claim its intelligence service had not checked the ship's ownership with the registration authorities . . . "

And, as the article you cite states, "Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the Palestinian cabinet, called the operation ''an Israeli trap.''

... which it very well could be. We have no independently verifiable way of knowing. In any event, it's not relevant to the situation with Hamas in Gaza.
posted by markkraft at 8:20 AM on January 16, 2009


Sheesh, that part where "And now, we test the [highly explosive] material we have made. . ." with a spoonful of it and a lighter IN THE TINY ROOM WITH ALL THE REST OF IT. It was like my seventh grade summer all over again. Thank God I am not dead.
posted by resurrexit at 8:25 AM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's indicative that Iran has the capability and has in the past tried to smuggle a large shipment of arms to militant groups in the area.

Considering this is Hamas I would be more inclined to say that it's Syria doing the dirty work.
posted by PenDevil at 8:27 AM on January 16, 2009


Looking just at the science and engineering of this, it was very interesting. It seems strange to me that they have access to TNT but not to rocket fuel, but I guess TNT has "normal" uses while rocket fuel doesn't.

So they make some from potassium nitrate and sugar. Sure, a sugar rocket. But not even any sulfur? And such a tiny, tiny amount! The amount of fuel he made would be maybe enough to lift a paperclip but would never lift that huge pipe, let alone carry it "18 kilometers".

Possibilities:

1) The launchers deliberately made a toy version to not give away their capabilities.
2) Either the launchers or the TV guy had them make a toy version just for demo purposes.
3) We didn't see all the steps. (In particular, the sugar rocket part may give way to something like liquid oxygen (from where??) or something else later. Like in the salami rocket episode of Mythbusters.)
4) This is all the launchers can do and they are posers.

Number 3 seems the most likely because they don't want to make a training video.
posted by DU at 8:32 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know the basis of Israel's claim that the tunnel was going to be used for a kidnapping, rather than to smuggle food or medical supplies?

And does anyone know if the tunnel was being dug by Hamas or by one of the radical groups that was not respecting the ceasefire?
posted by shetterly at 8:33 AM on January 16, 2009


And now, we test the [highly explosive] material we have made...

It's not explosive unless you confine it. And for this particular material, not even really that explosive then. Think about it: You don't want your rocket fuel to explode, you want it to propel. (The TNT in the head is for the explosion at the end.)
posted by DU at 8:34 AM on January 16, 2009


"It's indicative that Iran has the capability and has in the past tried to smuggle a large shipment of arms to militant groups in the area."

In the article I cited, it says:
"Ha'aretz newspaper suggests that the arms shipment cannot have had full backing from the Iranian authorities. If it were officially approved, the Karine A would not have picked up the weapons at night from another ship near Kish: it would have gone straight to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and loaded its cargo openly. . . Loading secretly near Kish could point to involvement by a section of the Revolutionary Guards or one of the wealthy religious "foundations" that operate largely outside state control."

It's also worth pointing out that Kish Island is a free trade zone in arguably the most free-wheeling, unmonitored sense, so there are all sorts of possibilities for arms smugglers of various ilks being involved.

These arms were reportedly loaded in gulf, with a boat coming out from shore to do the task... loaded onto a boat that was recently purchased by an Iraqi... so really, even now it's very hard to know what its purpose was.

It should be noted that we're talking about all this happenng in 2002, which really predates the current situation significantly.
posted by markkraft at 8:55 AM on January 16, 2009


Well, I'm actually glad they made this video.

It makes things a hell of a lot easier than crawling around the desert looking for sulfur, charcoal, diamonds and bamboo..... and all while that fucking Gorn is trying to kill you.
posted by rokusan at 9:04 AM on January 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Looks like there was a rocket engine assembly, and a warhead assembly, ready to go, fairly finely threaded to screw together, and they looked to be in, well, not-DIY shape. Where do those parts come from?

People on the Metafilter-similar portions of the Internet where most people have jobs sitting in front of a computer all day and they can all afford to pay others to do their manual labor for them sure do mistakenly universalize their DIY skillset. Threading pipe and welding are skills that you could expect a random plumber to already have.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"You may want to get your mother to help you pack the flinders and TNT... "
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Considering this is Hamas I would be more inclined to say that it's Syria doing the dirty work."

Or, more logically, Hamas' most helpful partners might be sympathetic Egyptians, especially those who support the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's major opposition party. Hamas is, in fact, a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, who gets most of their funding not from Syria or Iran, but from sympathetic Saudi donors.

This, incidentally, helps to explain why Egypt's dictator is so strongly opposed to Hamas, to the point of working with the US to covertly smuggle Egyptian weapons to the Palestinian Authority, as a Hamas victory would encourage the opposition forces in his own country.

This also would help to explain why Condoleeza Rice suddenly did a 180 when it came to calling for human rights in Egypt, calling for greater democratic freedoms in Egypt back in 2005, and then, when returning in 2007, completely turning a blind eye to Mubarak's arrests of the opposition party, as well as crackdowns on intellectuals and Egyptian bloggers after Hamas won the elections with 56% of the vote.

I hardly think the fact that she backed off on Egypt's human rights situation at a time of some of the government's worst human rights abuses was coincidental.
posted by markkraft at 9:30 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


My god loves me, and he's going to encourage me to kill the people my god doesn't like. Yay.

What if your god and their god are the same one, as in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict? (Arabic for God is Allah. Allah is God, same diference.)
posted by Pollomacho at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2009


I think the question needs to be asked of Israel, much like it needed to be asked of the Bush administration after 9/11...

Why are the usual suspects always Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, when everyone knows the people with the real money and the biggest role in funding terror are in Saudi Arabia and the other wealthy Persian Gulf states?
posted by markkraft at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2009


From the looks of it, the rocket they were building and the one they "launched" didn't even appear to be the same.
posted by orme at 9:38 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Considering this is Hamas I would be more inclined to say that it's Syria doing the dirty work.

Because the secular socialist dictatorship of Syria has had such a close relationship with muslim extremists in the past?

Just because you both have a common enemy, that doesn't make you friends, nor should you base your foreign/security policy on an assumption of affinity.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


TheOnlyCoolTim posted: People on the Metafilter-similar portions of the Internet where most people have jobs sitting in front of a computer all day and they can all afford to pay others to do their manual labor for them sure do mistakenly universalize their DIY skillset. Threading pipe and welding are skills that you could expect a random plumber to already have.

Don't underestimate the skills of MeFites. I grew up making model rockets and even making my own rocket engines in high school chemistry. I am also a pretty good DIY'er. The rocket casings are obviously not plumbing supplies. These are machined and would have to be aluminum to be effective for that distance.

Make KNO3 from manure isn't something that isn't that easy. It is more than a fifteen minute process. Making an easily assembled rocket for dummies isn't something that is easy to do even with an instruction booklet.
posted by JJ86 at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2009


Those rocket bodies looked heaver than Al and sounded like steel when they clonked. But you are right that it wouldn't make sense to make them that way--far too heavy. However I disagree that it was "machined" in any meaningful way. It just has a thread. Even Home Depot has a threading machine. I don't know if it'll handle what looks like a 3"-4" diameter pipe, but a tool that would do that and only that wouldn't be too expensive. (Like the brake lathes in automotive shops. It's a specialized version of a generalized tool.)

However, the more I think about it the more I think there's some hornswoggling going on here. For instance, why even have threading at all? It's not like you need to take it apart later for inspection or whatever. Just epoxy it on there. Something quick and dirty to match the KNO3/sugar concoction.

And that's the giveaway. They make the fuel in a pot on the floor because they are supposedly constantly on the move (otherwise why not some more permanent arrangement). But they have this threading machine where? In a pocket? Seems more likely there's a supply chain of parts. After all, they've been doing this for 40 years. No way is every tiny group starting from scratch. And if there's a supply chain for rocket parts, there's a supply chain for rocket fuel.

So I'm going to amend my answer. I think it's #1 or #4. Either these launchers aren't showing us how they really do things OR they are posers who got some stuff together and wanted to act big. On balance, probably #1.
posted by DU at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2009


The rocket casings are obviously not plumbing supplies.

No, they're fancier, but I have no reason to expect that handy Gazan plumber types aren't able to get their hands on enough of a smuggled-in machine shop to expand their handiness to be able to DIY these sort of rockets on a small scale.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:27 PM on January 16, 2009


Quick! Someone call Make!
posted by ooga_booga at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2009


Or Etsy.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2009


Because the secular socialist dictatorship of Syria has had such a close relationship with muslim extremists in the past?
Well they seem to have patched things up because the high up Hamas mucky mucks are currently sitting pretty in Damascus.
posted by PenDevil at 2:09 PM on January 16, 2009


I certainly do not deny that the Gazans have smuggled in weapons in the past, and that they get their funds from all sorts of outside sources... but what isn't clear is the actual, provable link between Iran's government and the military funding of Hamas.

"Striking Deep Into Israel, Hamas Employs an Upgraded Arsenal" [NYTimes]
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters, said that Hamas appeared to have relied on a combination of black-market entrepreneurs and help from its longtime patrons Iran and Syria to procure rocket parts.
...
The officials said the extent to which Iran and Syria directly supplied Hamas was murky because arms shipments were difficult to track. Yet they generally agree about the smuggling route: by land across the Sinai Peninsula, often aided by Bedouin tribes, and through the warren of tunnels under Egypt’s border into Gaza.
...
American and Israeli officials said there was evidence that at least some Hamas fighters might also have been schooled in urban assault tactics at Iranian camps run by the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Annoyingly, in the first two chunks of the article that I quote it is ambiguous about whether it is talking about American or Israeli officials or both. The third sentence makes clear that both Americans and Israelis think there is a military relationship between Iran and Hamas.

I didn't actually realize people doubted the military relationships between Hamas and Iran, so if you don't find this convincing I can google you up some more articles although it will have to wait until tomorrow because I am going to bed now.
posted by davidstandaford at 4:10 PM on January 16, 2009


Or Etsy.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:45 PM


I saw a how-to on there for a rocket. It was crocheted and had a felt warhead. They launched it at an Urban Outfitters. Took out a whole rack of skinny pants.
posted by orme at 5:42 PM on January 16, 2009


Wow. This is bogus. While the basic design and chemicals are fine, that thing just doesn't have the capabilities that I'm lead to believe the real rockets have. There's no way that a tube full of that propellant, which is damn slow without a better oxidizer (I've made it for smoke bombs), is going to propel something that heavy 18km. Now, if there's a bottle of liquid oxygen in the mix, I'll buy it. Likewise, I might buy it if the rocket massed about a quarter of what it looks like it does.

Furthermore, you'll note that the rocket at the end of the clip is not the rocket that they made in the video. The shape of the warhead is totally different.

I'm in the #1 and #4 conbined camp. I just don't think these jokers are the real thing. I actually think it's likely that [the organization, whichever that is] found a couple of wannabes who'd been bugging them to "get involved" and pawned them off on the reporter who'd been bugging them to "see how it works". They get to sew disinformation at the cost of a single rocket casing and a couple hours' "training", with relatively little risk for the real org.

Also, for those of you cringing at the idea of tamping TNT with a wrench handle: it's not even remotely as dangerous as you imagine. The whole point of TNT, and why it's used so widely and effectively, is that it doesn't explode just because you drop it or smack it. You must use another explosive charge to detonate it. In fact, you can burn TNT without detonation; and it's widely used by melting it and casting it into the shape you want.

The biggest danger in what those fellows was doing was the chance that they might make a spark with the wrench against the casing, resulting in the whole pile burning up quite rapidly. This would suck for the person standing over the casing, and might light the room on fire. But, would not result in detonation. They could significantly mitigate the risk by using a wooden implement instead of the wrench.

This is in contrast to nitroglycerin-based explosives which are highly shock sensitive. For instance, dynamite is NG soaked up in saw dust or diotemaceous earth for stabilization. But, over time, it "sweats" pure NG which can then be trivially triggered by shock. But, in its stabilized form, even dynamite needs a booster explosion to set it off.

The thing that surprised me, though, was that they had access to TNT. It's not terribly difficult to make, but not trivial, and the ingredients are characteristic.
posted by Netzapper at 6:31 PM on January 16, 2009


"The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters..."

What unnamed officials, you might ask?!

"according to American and Israeli officials."

Oh yes! Please, let's cite unnamed Israeli / Bush administration officials whenever we need intellegence interpreted for us!

By all means, let's get our intelligence not from intelligence officials, but from politicical sources who aren't authorized to discuss intelligence matters!

They'd *NEVER* lead us astray!
posted by markkraft at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2009


christhelongtimelurker writes "Watching them pack explosives into a rocket with a wrench handle was interesting, to say the least; if I were the journalist I would be tempted to run or at least explain that they are doing it wrong."

TNT needs way more force than a human can deliver with a wrench to explode.

Netzapper writes "The biggest danger in what those fellows was doing was the chance that they might make a spark with the wrench against the casing, resulting in the whole pile burning up quite rapidly. This would suck for the person standing over the casing, and might light the room on fire. But, would not result in detonation. They could significantly mitigate the risk by using a wooden implement instead of the wrench."

However if the casing is Aluminum then it's going to be pretty tough to strike a spark.
posted by Mitheral at 9:28 PM on January 16, 2009


And again from the aforementioned article:

"The officials said the extent to which Iran and Syria directly supplied Hamas was murky. . . Yet they generally agree about the smuggling route: by land across the Sinai Peninsula, often aided by Bedouin tribes"

Which basically defends what I said. There are clear ties to factions in Egypt -- such as the Bedouin tribes -- who feel targeted by the Mubarak regime and are prone to be sympathetic, if not active supporters of -- the Muslim Brotherhood, who are funded largely by Saudis.

From the article above I cited:

"(The view of Bedouin farmers in Rafah) is that the (Gazan) tunnel was being used to smuggle medicines and cigarettes into the Gaza Strip.

Prices for weapons in Gaza are at an all-time low, they say, as Hamas is currently well-supplied, having relieved Fatah of their weaponry after their seizure of power in Gaza last month."


And where did much of Fatah's former weaponry in Gaza come from? From Egyptian government sources, covertly paid for by American taxpayers!

I do not deny that there are factions out there from practically every muslim nation who are actively supportive of Hamas' fight against the Israelis. That said, Israel is quick to oversimplify things, blaming Gazan rockets exclusively on Hamas, and declaring the masterminds of Islamic "terrorism" are those nations that either they or their U.S. allies haven't effectively conquered yet.

They would rather overlook the obvious connections, especially if they reflect poorly on the pro-western dictators who run those nations.
posted by markkraft at 9:41 PM on January 16, 2009


Anyone seen / read "The Quiet American" lately?!

The situation in Palestine is very much reminiscent of the situation in Vietnam. The U.S. basically insisted on backing the wrong horse, and when democratic elections seemed likely to overturn that fact, they overturned democratic elections.

"In 1956, South Vietnam, with American backing, refused to hold the unification elections called for by the Geneva accords. In response, Ho Chi Minh escalated guerilla attacks against the South Vietnamese government."

All we are seeing is a new variation on the "domino theory", Islamic style. Never mind that this theory is overly simplistic and basically flawed, and that even old Ho Chi Minh shared many of the ideals of the United States original founders, and once wanted to be a U.S. ally.

But this isn't about Islamic radicalism, any more than Vietnam was really about communism. It's about democratic self-determination, and our country's efforts to prevent it.

... and now, we're going to be in an economic depression for who knows how long, which will promote instability and the radical polarization around the world amongst all those nations we previously did our best to deny self-determination to.

Increasingly, those other Islamic dominos seem likely to topple... which, to me, seems like a good argument for not "propping up" dominos in the first place.

If America rides out the upcoming turmoil without having another Iranian-like revolution on our hands in Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan, etc., where the reformist, pro-democracy calls of college students are drowned out by the angry mob of anti-American, anti-Israeli radicals, well... I guess we'll see how this all plays out, won't we?!
posted by markkraft at 10:20 PM on January 16, 2009


If anyone would like to compare Palestinian bombing with Israeli bombing, there are photos at The Other Side of the Story. The Palestinian bomb pictures start halfway down the scrollbar.
posted by shetterly at 1:34 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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