During the ground operation in Gaza, the Al-Qassam Brigades published video clips showing its fighters using mortar shells to strike teams of occupation soldiers and military vehicles, which are currently advancing inside Gaza in an attempt to cut off its north from its south. On the evening of November 5, Al-Qassam also published scenes of an organized formation. Soldiers in the Qassam Artillery Corps continue to target the infiltrating and massed enemy forces with hundreds of mortar shells.
From the first moment when the occupation forces sought a ground incursion into Gaza, the mortar was a friend of the loyal Qassamites, and although the resistance soldiers already possessed other effective weapons such as Yassin shells, Kornet shells, explosive devices, and others, mortar shells have a very special advantage for the resistance, as they are an alternative to artillery weapons. During short distances.
The mortar is a simple cannon in its basic model (1). It can provide tactical fire and can be carried easily. It has a short hitting barrel that reaches about one meter. As you can see from the clips broadcast by the resistance, shells can be loaded from the mortar nozzle and immediately fired upwards. On his long-term goals. It is another masterpiece of war, and since it was first used as early as 1453 by the Ottomans, and at that time it was a large device weighing about 4-5 tons capable of firing shells weighing more than a hundred kilograms, it became a companion of soldiers throughout history from that time. Until the moment these words are written, we do not think that it will disappear soon, but quite the opposite.
Simple… powerful… lethal
The secret of the mortar’s power stems from the simplicity of its idea and method of operation (2). It consists, as you can see in the Qassam videos, of an inclined tube resting on what looks like a circular metal tray at the bottom, and a dual stand resting approximately at the middle of the tube. The weapon is operated by placing the shell in the tube. At the bottom of the tube from the inside, there is a fork that acts as a trigger that activates the fuse of the projectile, so that it immediately shoots towards the target.
To determine the location of the target, the inclination of the main tube is adjusted, as there is on the holder what resembles a telescope that the fighter uses to determine the target and accordingly adjust the angle of inclination of the tube. In addition to that, another fighter may use a telescope or surveying scale to help identify the target and monitor strikes in order to adjust the angle. Tube height to bring the distance closer or closer.
As for the circular metal tray at the bottom of the mortar, it is usually dug into the ground and is designed to absorb the recoil shock resulting from the launched missile. One fighter can use the mortar to fire shells at a rate of 30 shells per minute. With the increase in the number of mortar pieces, we can imagine the shape of the barrage. It is fired by a simple mortar unit consisting of 10-15 fighters, with two to three personnel working on each mortar, along with a management and monitoring team.
How does mortar benefit the Qassam Brigades?
Let us first begin by clarifying that the mortar has several calibers (3), and the caliber is the diameter of the part that launches from the shell to hit the target, and it is, by extension, the diameter of the main mortar tube. From our observation of the Qassam videos, it appears that they operate at least two types of mortars, the first with a diameter of 82 mm, and the second With a diameter of 120 mm, this means that the Qassam has at least two artillery ranges; The first is medium, with a maximum length of up to 5.5 km, and the second is slightly larger, with a maximum length of up to 7.5 km.
But in addition to the maximum range, the limits of using the mortar at the lower range are amazing, reaching only 75 or 100 meters, which tells us about the first advantage of this type of weapon for the Qassam Brigades, which is that the mortar is excellently suited as an artillery weapon in the case of short-range ranges that It cannot be reached by conventional artillery, meaning that it is mainly suitable for ground invasions where the distances between attacker (occupation) and defender (resistance) are short.
Add to this another point that usual artillery does not have, which is that the degree of curvature of the trajectory of the shell fired from the mortar is usually high (4), above 45 degrees, which allows the mortar shells to hunt soldiers and vehicles that take shelter in trenches, low areas, or the remains of buildings, because the shell Coming from above.
To understand the idea, just imagine that there is an empty cup, while you are sitting on a chair two or three meters away from it, and you want to drop a coin into this cup. Here you must raise it up with a high curve so that it falls into the cup, but if you dropped it directly in an almost straight line, it would It hits the cup, but it won’t fall into it. The above is in favor of another advantage, which is the mortar’s ability to be fired from tunnels, hidden areas, or trenches, because it is fired at a high angle and does not require an open space to work.
All this and we did not talk about the other advantages of the mortar, such as portability and freedom of movement without the need for logistical support. In the end, you cannot carry a howitzer, for example, on your back to a firing position. In addition, the mortar is simple to use and quick to launch. Most importantly, the fragmentation range of its shells is wide. If an 82 mm shell falls on the ground, for example, its fragments effectively reach an area of 250 square meters, and up to 650 square meters in the case of 120 caliber shells. mm.
Mortars allow immediate, accurate fire support, and this is the advantage of short-range lightweight artillery for almost all armies of the world, which use mortar and grenade units at the infantry level, while field pieces such as howitzers are often stationed in separate units.
But in urban warfare, in which the defender has an advantage over the attacker by having the former within terrain that enables him to take cover and hunt the other party, the mortar is suitable for irregular forces in particular, which converge with regular forces in a form of asymmetric warfare (5), which is A type of war in which the two combatants have unequal forces. As you can see, the occupation possesses military vehicles, including planes, tanks, artillery, and soldiers, and their readiness is technically superior to the resistance, whose access to weapons has been restricted for many years and in every possible way.
But this does not mean that any army can win simply because of its technical superiority, because in an asymmetric war of this type, the technically weaker party can resort to unconventional tactics that give it an advantage on the battlefield, such as strategies of flight and attack, or choosing battles, or using weapons. Cheaper but very effective within a specific operational range, balancing forces with more expensive technologies.
And it is precisely at this point that the Qassam strike force becomes apparent. They use Al-Yassin missiles launched from relatively cheap launchers against expensive and advanced armored vehicles and tanks that penetrate the urban terrain of the Gaza Strip. They are able to build elaborate ambushes using homemade explosive devices to strike moving military convoys or by placing them directly on… Military vehicles, and they drop cheap hand grenades from cheap commercial marches, through which they are able to make the land a nightmare for Israeli soldiers, so that their exit from the armored vehicles to breathe air is a suicide attempt.
In this type of war, regular forces cannot win easily, because there are no direct confrontations between the two forces and victory is not counted by the number of deaths. However, there is always a political and psychological battle in the background waged by the resistance to put pressure on decision-makers in the occupying state. The longer the battle lasts, the more it takes place. Greater losses in the army and damage to the occupation economy. Victory was closer to the technically weaker party. Here, for example, the Qassam videos alone are an important aspect of this battle, and a powerful weapon.
In this context, mortars come in support of any resistance soldiers who do not have advanced artillery units. They become of enormous power only once the occupation forces decide to move forward and approach them at a short distance. In this context, this simple, short-range piece that was once called a “cannon” becomes “The Poor” is comparable to a howitzer, despite the technical difference in both power and accuracy.
1- mortar- weapon
2- Mortar-indirect fire weapons
3- What is a mortar
4- 60 mm Mortar Weapon Systems models M224 and M224A1
5- Special Operations from a Small State Perspective pp 141–154 Chapter Irregular Warfare—A Strategy for Small States