“The irresponsible pullout from Gaza allowed Hamas to arm itself with mass amounts of explosives, weapons and funds that flowed into the Strip,” Major-General (res.) Yaacov Amidror told Ynet Wednesday, amid reports that the Islamist group had the upper hand in the fierce clashes with Fatah.
Amidror, the former deputy chief of IDF Intelligence, said that “after Israel lost control over its border with Gaza, Hamas members were able to train outside the Strip and then return home with a lot of knowledge”.
“Experts came to Gaza and helped Hamas get its army organized,” he added. “The corrupt Fatah and Palestinian Authority gradually lost power, because they were busy stealing public Palestinian funds while Hamas was busy bolstering its army and creating a clear advantage.
Gunmen in Gaza (photo: Reuters)
“The result is a war in which Hamas will gain full control over Gaza. The fear that Gaza will become a Lebanon-like Hamastan, a wasps’ nest that in the future will attract al-Qaeda men and extensions of Iran. All of these things are coming to life before our very eyes.”
According to Amidror, Israel lost its influence as soon as it completed the second phase of the withdrawal.
“We are moving toward a situation in which Gaza will be a formal terror state,” he said.
“In the short term, Israel will face an organized system of guerilla warfare similar to what is going on in Lebanon. This system will grow stronger and stronger with each passing day. In the long term this entity will have long-range missiles and other capabilities, which will affect not only Sderot, but Kiryat Gat and Ashdod as well. Eventually these missiles will reach Haifa.”
The former intelligence officer continued to say that Israel must prevent Hamas from reaching Hizbullah-like capabilities.
To this end, Amidror said, Israel “must be prepared to remain in the area (Gaza) for years”.
“Those who make the decisions have a difficult one to make, because the meaning of this is a harsh war - and then staying in the area for years,” he said. “If we are not ready for these two outcomes – then it’s best not to enter in the first place.
“If we do not act, Hamas will inevitably grow in strength and turn into Hizbullah.”
'The rockets are getting larger'
MK Matan Vilnai (Labor), who was head of Southern Command when the IDF pulled out of the Strip in 1994, told Ynet, "It seems like external forces are involved in what goes on in Gaza."
"The Palestinians have become pawns in someone's game and it's a dangerous path to be on for both them and us. Hamas has always had a strong hold on the Palestinian street," he said. "Its strength is due to the fact it takes care of the everyday problems the average Palestinian has.
"There is a chance they may turn on us… but the Palestinians have to realize they are pawns in some external force's game," said Vilnai when asked on the potential effects the escalating situation in Gaza may have on Israel.
"One of the most important factors in our collaboration with the Egyptians in the fight against terror on the Philadelphi Route is the prevention of weapons-smuggling into Gaza," he added.
Vilani also said he thinks targeted killings may be in order. "We have to use special forces in the ground and aerial assaults against anyone who tries to use terror against us," he said.
"The rockets are getting larger, harder to hide, so hitting launchers is quite possible. We have an intifada on our hands, and this is what we have to do."
"A change is imminent," he added. "We have to find the best solution for this situation. We must exercise caution in our military operations, while working on a political solution with the PA. We are far from any state of war, so any discussion on a potential ground incursion in redundant."