Hamas has expanded operations of its military academy
as part of an effort to produce a trained cadre of officers.

The Abdullah Azzam Academy, located in the central Gaza Strip, has
received additional funding and recruits in 2009 in wake of the war with

The academy, launched in 2006 and located in Nusseirat, was seen as
vital in building an officer corps skilled in combat and leadership.
Palestinian sources said the academy would play a major role in the
formation of a professional officers corps as part of a restructured Hamas

At least 50 commanders were said to have been dismissed in 2009
for failing in their duties during the 22-day war with Israel.

The academy, named after the late mentor of Al Qaida chief Osama Bin
Laden, offers four-month courses for military and security cadets.
Instruction includes classroom and field training, provided by teachers who
studied combat tactics in Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

The sources said recruitment for the academy began before the Hamas war
with Israel in December 2008. They said Hamas has long sought to professionalize
its forces and establish a standard military training course.

Hamas has not detailed the courses provided at the academy. But a Hamas
DVD found during the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip cited such subjects
as bomb-making, self-defense, wireless communications, camouflage and
Islamic indoctrination.

Israel’s state-financed Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
said the academy has also been teaching cadets how to infiltrate Israel Army
outposts and abduct soldiers. The Israeli center said the Hamas academy has
sought to introduce an advanced system of training, with more professional
courses available in Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

“Founding the academy was part of Hamas’s efforts to raise the level of
its operatives’ skills and activities in all the military-terrorist
professions for the military buildup it has been conducting in recent
years,” the center said.