On the eve of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas had reached the height of its military capabilities since its founding, equipped with an arsenal of self-produced rockets. Estimates say that at the outset of the operation, Hamas possessed thousands of rockets, most of which were capable of reaching short-distance targets and another 200-300 rockets with a range of between 45-160 kilometers.
In the underground sphere, 31 attack tunnels had been dug which had crossed into Israeli territory. While these tunnels were exposed and destroyed by the IDF, even at the time of destruction it was believed that other attack tunnels existed which had not yet been discovered. These suspicions were confirmed over the last few weeks when the IDF discovered additional tunnels on the border which were already ready for use during Protective Edge.
The opening strike of Hamas on the eve of the operation was supposed to include a wide scale penetration into Israeli territory via the tunnels by armed Hamas terrorists (likely into civilian towns parallel to the border), to inflict as many casualties as possible and a retreat back into the Gaza Strip with hostages. However, Israeli security had already been appraised of Hamas’ plans and took pre-emptive measures accordingly.
During the fighting, Hamas attempted to challenge the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system by launching multiple rockets simultaneously at the same target, a strategy which also ultimately failed.
However, Hamas was able to record two successes: First, the firing toward Ben Gurion Airport which resulted in civilian flight disruptions to Israel; second, mortar firing caused extensive damage to towns near the Gaza border and took a heavy toll on soldiers’ lives near the entrance points into the Strip. It is reasonable to assume that Hamas will not place all its hope in employing the strategies which yielded such successes during the next conflict. Undoubtedly, rockets will again be launched against civilian centers and central Israel and beyond.
Over the last two years, Hamas has managed to complete the rehabilitation of its forces obliterated in the 2014 operation. Mohammed Shabaneh was nominated to the position of brigade commander in Rafiah taking the place of Ra'ad al-Atar who was killed in Protective Edge. Muhammad Sinwar replaced the military commander of the southern border, Mohammed Abu Salameh. Sinwar, is the brother of one of the prisoners released under the Shalit deal.
It is likely that during the next round, Hamas will try to bring the fight to Israel inside Israeli territory by way of the attack tunnels which are constantly being dug. Even the training of commando units has intensified over the last two years as part of the effort to bring them into the next war, particularly given that their success in infiltrating into the Israeli coast near Kibbutz Zikim.
Over the last two years, Hamas has succeeded in rehabilitating itself after the damage Israel inflicted on its militants and has also replenished its arsenal back to its level prior to Protective Edge.