Rafah crossing - porous
Photo: AP

Katyushas from Gaza only a matter of time, officer says

Senior IDF officer says Hamas has built de facto army

"In the two years since the IDF left the Philadelphi Corridor (along the border between Gaza and Egypt), Hamas has leapt forward by a generation," a senior IDF officer said in a briefing.


The relative quiet in Gaza in the past month has been maintained by Hamas only in order to be able to build up its forces and arsenal more easily, he said. "Sooner rather than later, there will be Katyusha rockets in Gaza. If they already possess missiles 115 mm in diameter, Katyushas are only a matter of time."


Hamas has built a de facto army, the officer added, noting that their forces number from 12,000 to 13,000, with a clear command structure and training regime.


"Hamas already has four trained divisions... It also has forces specializing in various types of combat. An additional element is the hundreds of operatives traveling to Iran in order to acquire new (military) knowledge to bring back to Gaza."


According to the officer, as time passes, the threat emanating from the region grows larger and more complicated. "Right now, we're dealing with marginal problems relating to terror. We're not dealing with the fundamental problem," he said.


Hamas forces - trained and ready (Photo: AP) 


"The Gaza Strip, which used to be surrounded by the IDF, has become porous and led by Hamas… hindering Israel from preventing terrorist movement along the Philadelphi Corridor or through the Rafah crossing (into and out of Egypt)," he explained.


Arrangements for the operation of the Gaza border crossings, agreed upon when IDF forces left the area in 2005, are not being implemented because Palestinian forces ignore them and European forces at the crossings are not effective, the officer said.


According to the IDF, some twenty tons of explosives, machine guns and, it is suspected, also anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles have been smuggled across the Philadelphi Corridor in the past month.


Nonetheless, while Hamas' strength in Gaza is growing, so is the strength of a potential IDF reaction. "The IDF has gone through the necessary preparations for a widespread operation in Gaza," the officer stated.


Since the 2005 disengagement, military operations have led to the deaths of 584 terrorists and the injury of about a thousand. In this same period of time, 766 terror suspects were arrested, including 47 operatives wanted by the Shin Bet.


"But we're pruning right now – nothing more," the officer said of recent IDF operations.


"I don't see the Egyptians, the Americans, the Europeans or (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, being able to restrain Hamas. Israel is the only one capable of making the change."


פרסום ראשון: 07.19.07, 13:53
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