Israel has assessed that Hamas intends to capitalize on the success of Hizbullah’s war against Israel.

Israeli officials said Hamas plans to copy variants of Iranian- and Russian-origin anti-tank missiles fired by Hizbullah during the 33-day war with Israel in Lebanon. Officials said Hamas and Islamic Jihad have assessed that the anti-tank missiles succeeded in blocking Israel’s ground advance in Lebanon and exacting a heavy casualty toll.

[Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan] Nasrallah is perceived as a national hero among [Palestinian] terror organizations, and they are attempting to learn from him,” Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin said. “They understand the power of the anti-tank missile and guerrilla fighting, as well as the use of underground bunkers.”

Hizbullah fired a range of Russian- and U.S. ATMs during the war in Lebanon. They included the advanced AT-14 Kornet, AT-13 Metis, enhanced AT-3 Sagger as well as the U.S.-origin TOW and European Milan. At least 40 Israeli main battle tanks were damaged.

On Sunday, Diskin told Israel’s Cabinet that Hamas and its allies would seek to bolster their military capabilities in wake of the Hizbullah war. The ISA chief warned that the Gaza Strip could become a strategic threat to Israel within a few years.

“The intensification of terror sources in Gaza is a strategic problem which, if not treated properly, will result in a reality like in Lebanon,” Diskin said. “We don’t have to wait three years and then launch investigations.”

Diskin’s assessment contrasted with that of military intelligence and government ministers. The ministers have played down the Hamas missile threat from the Gaza Strip, including strikes against strategic facilities in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

“You have to treat the Kassam [missile] threat within the framework of the Kassams,” Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Diskin’s predecessor, said, referring to Hamas’s short-range missile.

However, officials said the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has been receiving explosives and weapons from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They said Hizbullah has also sent weapons experts to the Gaza Strip to develop and produce longer-range rockets.

“In Judea and Samaria [West Bank] Hizbullah is smuggling in large sums of money and encouraging terrorist attacks against Israel,” Diskin said.

Yusef Al Sharqawi, a Palestinian analyst on strategic affairs, said Israel has lost its deterrence in the Middle East. Al Sharqawi said Israel’s performance against Hizbullah elicited disappointment from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

“The attempt by Israeli generals to restore their badly-beaten deterrence to please the American administration, their main ally and supporter, has failed miserably,” Al Sharqawi said.

[Over the weekend, four Palestinians were killed in Jenin and near Kalkilya as they sought to assemble bombs. At least three of the Palestinians were said to have been members of Hamas.]

At the same time, Hamas has eclipsed the Fatah movement led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Diskin said Fatah has reached its lowest point since the establishment of the Palestinian organization in 1964.

In the Gaza Strip, Diskin said, Hamas has eroded Fatah’s leading force, the PA’s Preventive Security Apparatus, led by Mohammed Dahlan. Diskin said the PSA has “crashed under Hamas pressure,” with operatives injured or abducted on a weekly basis. As a result, PSA has sought an accommodation with Hamas.

“Fatah’s situation is very serious,” Diskin said. “It hasn’t been in such a low ebb since its formation. If positive things from its perspective don’t take place soon, chances are good that Fatah in Gaza will crumble and disappear.