Hamas conducted what is thought to have been its largest military training exercise since this summer’s Operation Protective Edge. The drill is the latest in a recent series of apparent displays of strength by Hamas just months after the conflict ended.
The training exercise took place overnight Wednesday, with local Israeli residents living near the northern Gaza Strip border reporting hearing explosions and heavy gunfire from midnight until the early hours of Thursday morning. The drill is thought to have taken place at a training centre on the site of the former Israeli community of Dugit. It is reported to have been the first night time exercise on such a scale carried out by Hamas. Meanwhile, Hamas training is also said to have been conducted in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian media reports say that one person was killed and five injured at a Hamas training base near Rafah.
Meanwhile, Israel Radio news reports this morning that Hamas has begun to rebuild its network of attack tunnels with cement and construction materials which were meant for the rehabilitation of Gaza’s infrastructure and homes following the summer conflict.
On Sunday, Hamas displayed a public show of force at a large military rally in Gaza. Although Hamas’s military capability was seriously damaged during Operation Protective Edge, with many rockets and attack tunnels destroyed, the rally saw around 2,000 Hamas fighters take part in the parade. It also included long-range rockets and other military hardware such as vehicles with multiple-launcher rockets. At the rally, senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya pledged, “This illusion called Israel will be removed” by Hamas’s military wing.
Last weekend, Israeli jets scrambled after Hamas launched an unmanned drone in Gaza. Although it did not cross Israeli air space and the Israeli jets returned to base, it was another attempted display of Hamas’s strength. In addition, Israel again reported that Hamas had test-fired rockets into the Mediterranean Sea during the weekend. Hamas would neither confirm nor deny the suggestion.