The Shin Bet filed an indictment Monday against Dirar Abu Sisi, a Palestinian engineer from Gaza, charging that he played a major role in increasing the capabilities of Hamas anti-tank missiles and Qassam rockets targeting Israel .
During the past five years, the Qassams' range increased from less than four to almost 15 miles and the armor penetration capability of Hamas anti-tank missiles increased more than fourfold. According to the indictment, Abu Sisi (called the "rocket godfather" of Gaza by the Shin Bet) was deeply involved in making these improvements a reality. He faces hundreds of charges in Israeli courts, including involvement in a terrorist organization, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
After Israel concluded Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Abu Sisi was allegedly assigned responsibility for establishing a Hamas military academy in Gaza.
He was kidnapped Feb. 19 from a train in Kiev, Ukraine, and brought to Tel Aviv by Israeli agents. According to the indictment and press reports, Abu Sisi had studied in Ukraine during the 1990s at the Kharkov Military Academy under Professor Konstantin Petrovich, who had been a key developer of the Soviet Union's Scud missile.
While working as an engineer for the Gaza electric company, Abu Sisi secretly joined Hamas, where he worked on developing and improving missiles and mortars. He also reported to Muhammad Deif, head of Hamas' military wing, Israeli officials say.
The indictment illustrates how Abu Sisi helped transform Hamas from an organization best known for training suicide bombers into a military force with potential strategic implications for Israel, the Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Katz wrote.
Hamas' interest in developing a rocket industry in Gaza may also indicate that the terror organization wants to reduce its dependence on Tehran and Damascus. "It could also be a sign of Hamas concern that one day Israel, Egypt and the rest of the world will begin to take more effective steps to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza, meaning its supply from Iran will slow down," according to Katz.
Abu Sisi's family said he went to Ukraine in February because he wanted to make arrangements to move his family from Gaza to the former Soviet republic. There are unconfirmed reports that Israeli authorities believe Abu Sisi may have information about kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.