SKorea's spy agency: Hamas used North Korean weapons against Israel

A North Korean-made F-7 rocket-propelled grenade with a distinctive red stripe is seen at a facility in Tzrifin, Israel, Dec. 28, 2023. [VOA]

South Korea’s spy agency confirmed Monday that Palestinian militant group Hamas has been using North Korean-made weapons in its conflict with Israel, amid a report of new photos showing weapons etched with Korean characters retrieved in the conflict.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) made the confirmation in response to VOA’s Korean Service report published Friday showing new photos of North Korean F-7 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) with Korean letters inscribed on them used by Hamas, South Korean Yonhap News Agency reported Monday.

The NIS said its “assessment is the same as the VOA report” and that it is “collecting and accumulating” information about how much and when North Korea’s weapons were transferred to Hamas.

The NIS continued, “But it is currently difficult to provide such evidence due to the need to protect information sources and in consideration of diplomatic ties.”

The pictures were obtained by VOA’s Korean Service through a diplomatic source on Thursday. The Korean letters were etched on the ignition device responsible for triggering the rocket’s explosive payload on North Korea’s F-7s.

Multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from exporting weapons.

The Israel Defense Forces said they have been retrieving North Korean weapons in Gaza and Israel since the surprise attack that Hamas launched against Israel on October 7.

Lieutenant Colonel Idan Sharon-Kettler, deputy commander of the IDF’s enemy equipment collection unit, told VOA’s Korean Service on December 28 in Tzrifin, Israel, that tens of thousands of North Korean weapons were recovered.

He said the recovered weapons showed that Hamas took North Korean rocket engines from its F-7s and assembled them to make anti-tank RPGs, which give the weapons capabilities to “penetrate heavy armor” and cause greater damage.

The NIS said in a parliamentary intelligence committee meeting in November that it obtained information of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordering his officials to draw up plans to support Palestine, Yonhap said in the same report about the NIS’s confirmation of Hamas using North Korean weapons published Monday.

North Korea has denied that its weapons were used by Hamas.

North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Kim Song said at a U.N. meeting in October on the Israel-Hamas crisis that “some Western countries are resorting to a smear campaign against DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to forcibly link the Middle East crisis to us.”

He continued, “Some mass media belonging to the U.S. administration are spreading groundless and false rumors that North Korea’s weapon seems to be used for attack on Israel.”

North Korea said through its state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in December that the U.S. is “responsible” for supporting Israel and “having reduced Gaza Strip to a veritable hell.”

The NIS’ confirmation of North Korean weapons used by Hamas came as the White House said Russia launched North Korean ballistic missiles against Ukraine.

North Korea has been supplying Russia with ballistic missiles that Moscow used to attack Ukraine on December 30 and January 2, John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said on January 4.

“This is a significant and concerning escalation in the DPRK’s support for Russia,” Kirby said. “We anticipate that Russia will use additional North Korean missiles to target Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians,” he continued.

In October, the White House released satellite photos of over 1,000 containers full of weapons that it claimed North Korea shipped to Russia.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss North Korea’s missiles in the attack on Ukraine.