Hamas’ “military wing”, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement claiming that many of its bases on Gaza’s border with Israel have been fully rebuilt, and asserting that it had recovered from Israel’s summer offensive.
The Brigades’ statement added that Hamas was “not afraid” of confronting the IDF again.
An official report on the Brigades’ website said that, “No sooner had the war ended, than the Qassam Brigades started a new stage of the conflict [with Israel] in preparation for the battle of liberation,” according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.
The report claimed that Hamas fighters had rebuilt military training sites located near the border, to the north, east and west of the Gaza Strip, saying that this debunked Israel’s claims that “Operation Protective Edge” had caused serious damage to the terror group.
Israel’s stated aim behind last summer’s 50-day operation was to put an end to rocket fire emanating from Hamas-controlled Gaza against Israeli civilian towns bordering the Strip. According to Maan, Hamas claims that its rockets are a response to Israel’s continued “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005, and Hamas considers the whole of Israel “occupied territory.”
At the end of the Operation, Hamas and other associated militant groups in Gaza were still firing rockets into Israeli territory, and Hamas claimed victory despite suffering extensive losses to its personnel and arsenal. Both Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas had suffered a serious blow during the conflict.
However, during the war, Hamas demonstrated an increase in its military prowess over past engagements with the IDF. Its new and more daring tactics took the lives of 66 Israeli soldiers.
Hamas’ improved performance during last summer’s war, as well as the speed with which it is rebuilding, is indicative of outside aid to the group, mainly from Iran and Hezbollah. Hamas and Iran have both recently admitted that the Islamic Republic armed the group during the war, and ties between the two sides have been put back on track after experiencing some tensions over Iran’s support for the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
The report by Hamas added that the group plans to continue military training near the border “without fear of the occupation’s threats,” adding that the training sites were being upgraded so they could host “all the training the mujahideen could need.”
The report also claimed that Israeli residents near the Gaza border had begun to “panic” after hearing the sounds of missiles and explosions coming from the training sites, and quoting Israeli media said that the Israelis, “complained about Hamas preparing for the coming war.”
The main grouping of training sites are known as Al-Yarmouk, and are located east of the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City, the location of intense battles between the IDF and Hamas during last summer’s war. The other site has been dubbed “Palestine” and is located near the site of the former Israeli settlement of Nisanit, which was evacuated during Israel’s 2005 Disengagement from the Gaza Strip.