Palestinian terror group Hamas recently revealed that it is increasing production of what it claims is its new M-75 long range rocket. Hamas, which controls Gaza (between Israel and Egypt) has been boasting of this new locally made rocket for a year now and said it first fired one at Israel last November. No evidence of such a rocket could be found in Israel. Nevertheless there is evidence that the M-75 does exist but not exactly as Hamas has described it.
The M-75 is described as a rocket with a 75 kilometer range. Oddly enough Iran has a rocket that fits that description, the Fajr-5. Iran insists it has not smuggled this long range rocket into Gaza and its sheer size indicates why. Fajr-5 is a 10 meter (31 feet) long, 333mm (13 inches) diameter, .9 ton rocket with a range of 75 kilometers. It could reach Tel Aviv and most of central Israel. But the Fajr-5 is as big as a telephone pole and is based on a similar 302mm Chinese rocket that Iran bought in the 1990s and now produces as the Fajr-5.
Fajr-5s could be moved through the smuggling tunnels to Gaza only if broken down into 8-10 sections, and then reassembled on the other end. Getting the pieces into Egypt would not be easy, and trying to smuggle them in by sea is very risky. The Fajr-5 carries a 200 kg (440 pound) warhead, with about a hundred kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives. It makes a big bang and is only effective if aimed at a large urban area. That means that the most likely victims will be civilians. Iran is betting that Israel will not retaliate when Israeli forensics experts examine the pieces of the missile after landing and identifying it as of Iranian manufacture. Israel did not strike back at Iran when smaller Fajr-3 rockets were fired at Israeli cities in 2006. But Israel would certainly go into Gaza if a Fajr-5 ever landed in Tel Aviv.
During the brief war between Hamas and Israel last November, Israel bombed many known Hamas rocket storage facilities and destroyed thousands of rockets. One such strike created secondary (munitions detonated in the target area) explosions consistent with many (over a hundred) larger (as in Fajr-5 size) rockets blowing up. The Israelis believe that Iran has been smuggling in Fajr-5 components (which can fit in the smuggling tunnels) which were then assembled, perhaps with some locally made components, into Fajr-5s (or, as Hamas likes to call them, M-75s).
Making their own rockets is nothing new, the Palestinians have been doing it for decades and Hamas has been sending people to Iran for training for years. In theory, the M-75 could exist. Most locally made Hamas rockets (Kassams) are based on the older Russian B-12 rocket. This is a factory made, 107mm, 19 kg (42 pound), 860mm (33 inch) long Russian designed rocket that is very popular with terrorists. This rocket has a range of about six kilometers and 1.4 kg (three pounds) of explosives in its warhead. Normally fired from a launcher in salvoes of dozens at a time, when used individually, it is more accurate the closer it is to the target. This 107mm design has been copied by many nations and is very popular with guerillas and terrorists because of its small size and portability. Hamas has little need for the B-12 because their locally made Kassam rockets match it in range and lack of accuracy. But some B-12s are smuggled in anyway.
The larger 122mm BM-21s weigh 68 kg (150 pounds) and are 2.9 meters (nine feet) long. These have 20 kg (44 pound) warheads but not much better accuracy than the 107mm model. However, these larger rockets have a maximum range of 20 kilometers. Again, because they are unguided, they are only effective if fired in salvos or at large targets (like cities or large military bases or industrial complexes). There are longer range (up to about 40 kilometers) versions of these rockets. These are made by a number of countries and gain their additional range by using smaller warheads.