Hamas is constantly increasing its military capacity in the Gaza Strip, and currently has 20,000 gunmen under its command, a study published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) revealed Thursday.
According to the new research, the challenges to Hamas from within and from Israel have forced the organization to establish a military-security force which it is constantly expanding.
Additionally, the group continues to hold wide-scale trainings inside and outside the Strip (mostly in Iran and Syria), amass advanced weapons - particularly improved rockets capable of reaching areas beyond Ashkelon, and antitank missiles identical to those used by Hizbullah.
The IICC experts claim that although this process of military development will take several years to be completed, Hamas already poses a much greater threat to the IDF and the western Negev than it did in the past.
Hizbullah as a role model
The study cites Hamas' diplomatic isolation, the economic siege on Gaza, the IDF's operations in the Strip, internal political subversion and the rivalry with Fatah as the main contributing factors to the movement's armament efforts.
This process is reportedly being led by Hamas' headquarters in Syria that is being financed by Iran and Syria, as well as by funds raised in the Arab world and the West. The transfer of money and smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip is made possible by Egypt's failure to effectively seal the border, the experts added.
Hizbullah, the writers stated, has become a role model for Hamas following the Second Lebanon War, which demonstrated the strategic importance of rocket attacks in view of the vulnerability of the Israeli home front.