The Hamas organization in the Gaza Strip has assembled an armed and trained force of about 7,500 fighters. A senior military official emphasized that it was not just a large guerilla force, but an organized military force.
This new Hamas army consists of several specialized units, including a short-range missile unit, a long-range missile unit, an anti-tank unit, and a sniper unit, among others.
Intelligence sources estimated the army would reach operational capacity, and be capable of confronting the IDF as soon as the coming summer, if the flow of arms, military experts, and money into the Gaza Strip was not stopped.
The army did not only have defensive capabilities against the IDF, but offensive capabilities that would allow it to launch long-range missiles towards settlements within the Green Line, and to infiltrate Israel through hidden tunnels.
According to military sources, the strengthening of Hamas’ army was a calculated aspect of a long-term plan that began with the rise of the Hamas government, and did not cease for a single day since then.
Even recent internal struggles and IDF operations did not hinder the moving forward of the plan. The manufacturing of short-term missiles took place in Gaza, and there was evidence of anti-tank missiles entering the Strip.
Hamas’ offensive abilities are based mainly on tunnels that leave Gaza and enter the Green Line. In September alone, 12 tunnels were discovered in a single kilometer near the Gaza Strip town of Dahaniya.
Three of the tunnel openings where found by Egypt, and another three were destroyed by the IAF.
It was difficult for Israel to make an exact estimate as to the number of working tunnels there were on the Philidelphi route, but a rough estimate showed several dozen tunnels which were sophisticated, professionally quarried, and fully equipped with tracks and wheeled carts.
Israeli military sources said they would have to decide soon how this new and growing military force in the Strip would be dealt with.