Hamas: What Sort of Drone Capabilities Do They Have?

November 8, 2023 Topic: Hamas Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: HamasDronesUAVMiddle EastIsrael

Hamas: What Sort of Drone Capabilities Do They Have?

Hamas’ growing arsenal of UAVs and drones also indicates that Iran’s other regional proxy groups possess similar capabilities.


Hamas: What Sort of Drone Capabilities Do They Have? Since the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted in 2021, the use of drone warfare in modern conflicts has become more popularized. Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has highlighted how these cheap and easily acquired unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be weaponized and cause jarring destruction in combat. UAVs are particularly dangerous since their production is not just limited to militaries. Non-state actors, including terrorist groups, are jumping on the drone wagon in order to build up their respective arsenals. 

How Hamas Used UAVs in its October 7 Attack

Although often considered “a poor man’s weapon,” drones are becoming increasingly more advanced and are equally challenging to thwart. When Hamas carried out its large-scale surprise attack against Israel on October 7, drones played a critical role in the terror group’s strategy. In fact, the heinous assault began when the Gaza-based group launched dozens of UAVs equipped with explosives to disable the Israeli Army’s communications and camera systems along the shared border. A security fence with CCTV towers, motion sensors, and other modes of monitoring completely surrounds Gaza’s border with Israel. Hamas was able to pinpoint key surveillance structures along the fence prior to the October 7 massacre, taking out cameras and communication systems with drones. 


Once these monitoring systems were destroyed, Hamas militants began the next stage of their assault. Explosive-ridden bulldozers were able to breach Israel’s security points in different areas and the IDF could not get eyes on exactly where these breaches were occurring. Next, Hamas launched scores of Al-Zawari UAVs toward the Jewish state in an attempt to overwhelm the Iron Dome air defense system. While the Dome has a 90 percent success rate at destroying projectiles fired into Israel, the world-renowned air defense system is not invincible. Israel’s adversaries have learned that the Dome is vulnerable to swarm tactics, which is why Hamas launched dozens of drones simultaneously on October 7. 

Hamas’ Drone Capabilities Have Grown

The Al-Zawari fixed-wing UAV was previously considered a reconnaissance drone but has been weaponized by Hamas. During the attack, militants also dropped munitions on main battle tanks, taking out at least 6 Merkava MBTS and even more infantry fighting vehicles. Swarms of explosive-ridden UAVs were also deployed to attack naval vessels, energy infrastructure, and emergency responders. 

As detailed by Forbes, “One Hamas video shows a multicopter drone dropping a munition on a Merkava. This appears to be a larger weapon than the ones used on the security towers. Dronesec note that Hamas ‘Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigade’ showed off a large hexacopter attack drone, something like the heavy drone bombers used by Ukraine. The munition appears to hit the Merkava and detonate; the effect of the explosion is impossible to assess, but a few seconds later a fire appear to break out from the front right section of the tank.”

Hamas’ growing arsenal of UAVs and drones also indicates that Iran’s other regional proxy groups possess similar capabilities. The Lebanon-based group Hezbollah has been launching more and more projectile attacks targeting the Jewish state over the last month of warfare. If a larger war does break out, drones would undoubtedly play a significant role. 

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image Credit: Iranian Drone via Shutterstock.