Since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the thousands of deaths that have since been reported on both sides, states around the world have been positioning themselves in the ongoing Middle East war. Many sided with Israel, others condemned Israel and its attacks on the Gaza Strip – including North Korea.

Three days after the attack, Pyongyang accused Israel of being responsible for escalating the conflict. This is the “consequence of Israel’s incessant criminal actions” against the Palestinian people, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted the North Korean newspaper “Rodong Sinmun”, the propaganda organ of the country’s Workers’ Party, as saying.

In the days and weeks that followed, North Korea continued to strongly condemn Israel. The state news agency KCNA spoke of “Israeli warmongers” – and made the USA partly responsible for the war, which was “entirely caused by the USA”. The EU, described by the KCNA as a “loyal observer without its own thoughts and principles”, joined the USA.

Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian territories and carried out “incessant armed attacks, inhumane killings of civilians and the expansion of Jewish settlements,” a KCNA commentary said.

The South Korean newspaper “The Korea Herald” reported on Wednesday, citing the NIS news service in South Korea, that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was mobilizing support for the Palestinians. NIS director Kim Kyou-hyun told parliamentarians that the North Korean leader had probably ordered “a wide range of support measures.” According to the report, this also included arms deals with militant groups.

The Israeli army reported last week that Hamas was using weapons made in Iran and North Korea. The Israeli military showed journalists a number of weapons found in southern Israeli towns attacked by Hamas on October 7.

According to the AFP news agency, these included mortar shells from Iran and rocket-propelled grenade rockets from North Korea. An Israeli Defense Force official said five to 10 percent of the weapons found were made in Iran and another 10 percent in North Korea. “The rest was made in the Gaza Strip.”

The South Korean newspapers “Chosun Ilbo” and “Hankyoreh” had previously reported, citing the country’s general staff, that Hamas fighters could have been armed by North Korea. “The Hamas F-7 rocket launcher said to have been used in the attack bears the same name that North Korea uses to export its RPG-7 anti-tank rocket launcher,” the general staff said.

Artillery shells that were found in the Gaza Strip and on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon were also probably made in North Korea, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

However, according to “Hankyoreh”, the General Staff was unable to provide any concrete evidence to support the claims. “There is no evidence that North Korea exported weapons directly to Hamas. But it is sufficiently likely that North Korea traded weapons with Hamas’ neighboring countries and that these North Korean weapons from these Hamas-affiliated countries fell into the hands of Hamas “Hamas reached Hamas,” the newspaper quoted the General Staff as saying.

Around a week after the attacks on Israel, Pyongyang rejected speculation about North Korean weapons from Hamas as “unfounded”. On Tuesday, those words were similarly repeated when North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations dismissed the reports as “unfounded rumors.”

The strong North Korean solidarity with the Palestinians seems strange at first glance, but it fits with the anti-USA rhetoric of North Korean state propaganda. Both Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon have long-standing ties to North Korea. Pyongyang is said to have supplied weapons and helped train militants in the past.

“North Korea has long pursued a policy of strengthening the international anti-US bloc. Palestine or Hamas is just another partner in this effort,” Oh Gyeong-seob, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, told the South Korean newspaper ” The Korea Times”. In Pyongyang’s eyes, Israel is just a “puppet” of the USA.

However, analysts believe that North Korea’s support does not mean much for the Palestinians and has no practical impact on the war between Israel and Hamas, writes the Korea Times. Troops, weapons, food or medical aid would be helpful, says Oh. However, North Korea itself doesn’t have much at its disposal and the tough sanctions are also a major obstacle.

Still, there are fears that North Korea could benefit from the war between Israel and Hamas. At least that’s how the NIS intelligence service assesses the situation, according to the Korea Times.

North Korea sees the war as an opportunity to sell weapons in order to counteract the sanctions against the country. Pyongyang could use the arms sales to finance its own rearmament, and possibly also its nuclear program.

Given the heavy sanctions, it is “no surprise” that North Korea is trying to work with Hamas, Hezbollah or other terrorist groups to export weapons, Hong Sung-pyo, a research analyst at the Korea Institute for Military Affairs, told The Korea Times. .

According to the NIS, North Korea has also expressed its intention to use the conflict as a testing ground for its weapons and tactics.

In fact, Hamas’s attack on Israel has sparked fears in South Korea that the North could carry out a similar attack.

According to Yonhap, North Korea is capable of firing about 16,000 shells per hour along the border in the early stages of a war. The country also has an estimated 340 long-range guns that are aimed directly at the greater Seoul area.

“It is suspected that Hamas is directly or indirectly linked to North Korea in various areas such as arms trafficking, tactical leadership and training. There is a possibility that North Korea could use Hamas’ attack methods for a surprise invasion of South Korea,” a senior official said of the South Korean General Staff, according to the Korea Times. Hamas’ incursions using means such as paragliders and drones show similar patterns that North Korea has used in the past, the official said. According to the newspaper, North Korea has increased its training for aerial infiltration using paragliders.

But that is not South Korea’s only concern. Seoul also fears that the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could push the Korean conflict into the background internationally, particularly in the United States.

Washington could therefore try to maintain the status quo to ensure that the situation on the Korean peninsula does not deteriorate further, Nam Chang-hee, a political science professor at Inha University, told the Korea Times.

Other experts assume that the US will keep an eye on the situation on the Korean peninsula, but will significantly reduce its diplomatic engagement with the North Koreans in the next few months.

A situation that the North could use for surprise attacks. “The North Korean strategy would focus on causing extreme social chaos and security disarray in South Korea through very different attack patterns early in the war,” a military official told South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. Such a strategy is intended to make it more difficult for the South Korean military to find a point for a counterattack.

South Korea therefore wants to arm itself against such an attack: The General Staff wants to combine South Korean and US surveillance systems to detect unusual military movements in the North and also develop a “low-altitude missile defense system” by 2026 – modeled on Israel’s Iron Dome .

Sources: AFP, KCNA and Yonhap news agencies, The Korea Herald, The Korea Times, JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, Hankyoreh