Russia has “handed over” Western weaponry captured from Ukrainian fighters to Hamas militants fighting in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency has said.
The Russian Army has given “trophy weapons” made by the United States and European Union countries, taken from Kyiv’s fighters over the course of the 20-month-old war, Ukraine’s GUR agency said in a statement on Monday.
Moscow would then claim the Ukrainian military is selling such Western-donated weapons to Hamas “on a regular basis” as part of a false-flag operation, the GUR added.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
In mid-June, Newsweek reported that Israel’s military was concerned about the possibility that U.S. and Western-made weapons flooding into Ukraine could end up in the hands of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.
“We are very worried that some of these capabilities are going to fall to Hezbollah and Hamas’ hands,” a high-ranking Israeli commander told Newsweek on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.
The alleged plan would look to discredit Ukraine’s military and stem the tide of military aid from Kyiv’s Western supporters, the GUR said. Ukraine relies heavily on Western donations of military aid to sustain its war effort against the Kremlin’s forces.
Ukrainian intelligence suggests that U.S.-made infantry equipment has made it into Hamas’ possession, Oleksandr Kraiev of the Kyiv-based Ukrainian think tank, Prism, told Newsweek.
On Saturday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggested that the Kremlin was already using the Hamas attacks as a weapon to pull away Western attention from Ukraine and erode support for Ukraine.
Former Russian president and current deputy chair of Russia’s security council, Dmitry Medvedev, said over the weekend that the U.S. had been “helping the neo-Nazis” rather than focusing on finding a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. The Kremlin has said its full-scale invasion of Ukraine is a special military operation to “denazify” the government in Kyiv, which has been rejected by Ukraine and the international community.
These suggestions from the Kremlin “target Western audiences to drive a wedge in military support for Ukraine,” the ISW said.
However, there is currently no conclusive evidence that Russia has been directly involved in the conflict, now in its third day.
“It’s difficult to imagine that Russia participated in the planning of this attack,” Oleg Ignatov, the Crisis Group think tank’s senior Russia analyst, previously told Newsweek. “Of course, we live in a world where we can’t exclude anything. But I haven’t seen any evidence.”
Hamas has been stockpiling weapons for some time, and likely has a different set of requirements for its military equipment compared to Russia for Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, according to Fabian Hinz, research fellow for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.
Hamas originally started off with smuggled artillery rockets, and has domestically mass-produced rockets—with Iran’s assistance—that do not closely resemble any other design, he told Newsweek. Hamas also seems to have developed its own drones, as well as using Iranian-made uncrewed vehicles, he added.
Early on Saturday, Hamas militants launched a large-scale land, air and sea attack on Israel, marking the most serious escalation of hostilities in the region for years in what the group termed “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”
Israel carried out waves of air strikes under its “Operation Iron Swords,” targeting the Gaza Strip.
At least 700 people have been killed in Israel and 493 in Gaza, according to the Associated Press, with thousands injured on both sides.
On Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called for an immediate ceasefire, although spokesperson Maria Zakharova appeared to blame “the West” for blocking peace-making efforts between Russia, the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations for the outbreak of renewed violence in the Middle East.
Update 10/09/23, 9:43 a.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.
Update 10/09/23, 11:05 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comments from Fabian Hinz.