A report issued by the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel says the Hamas regime in Gaza has retained its military capability and could be ready for an imminent war with Israel.
The Hamas military, despite sustaining a harsh blow, was not crippled by Israel during the 22-day war, which lasted from Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009.
The report said hundreds of Hamas soldiers have gone to Iran, Lebanon and Syria for advanced training in light arms, explosives and other military skills.
“It cannot be ruled out that the next round of warfare is closer than ever,” the report said.
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The report, authored by researcher Guy Aviad, said Hamas learned key lessons from Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2006.
Mr. Aviad wrote in the report, titled “The Hamas Military Wing in the Gaza Strip: Developments, Behavior and Forecast,” Hamas has focused on preparing a surprise for Israel.
“The military wing of Hamas is far from falling apart and has retained sufficient capability, both in terms of munitions and skilled manpower to challenge the Israel Defense Forces in the future,” the report said.
Each Hamas field brigade contains between 1,000 and 1,500 soldiers, the report said. The soldiers reportedly have been trained in concealment, anti-tank operations, intelligence and in the use of improvised explosive devices.
During the war with Israel, Hamas concentrated on anti-tank operations, using rocket-propelled grenades and the indigenous Yasin anti-tank missile, named for the terror group’s founder.
The report said Hamas also distributed its Grad-class rockets and other weapons among its units throughout the Gaza Strip in an effort to sustain fire of up to 100 missiles, mortars and rockets into Israel per day.
The rockets also threatened Israel Air Force bases, aircraft and the naval port at Ashdod.
“Hamas’ ability to sustain firepower was from its viewpoint one of its most important achievements during the conflict,” the report said.
The report said Hamas’ military command, led by Ahmed Jabari, survived the war intact.
Mr. Aviad said this has allowed Hamas to renew hostilities against Israel at a moment’s notice. Hamas security chief Salah Abu Sharah, who was assassinated by Israel, was the sole exception.
“One must not doubt the ability of Hamas to learn from the past conflict for the future, to fill its ranks and rearm with means that will improve its capabilities,” the report said.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com