With time still on the clock of a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after almost a month of fighting, a member of Hamas' armed wing warned Thursday that the group had yet to maximize its military potential.
“We prepared for a long battle. We can target cities we have not even hit in this war. We can penetrate the Israeli border again,” an Izz ad-Din al-Qassam commander told the British newspaper The Times.
"We have enough rockets, more than the enemy can imagine. We only fought with 10 per cent of our forces, the rest are on standby," said the fighter, named as Abu Laith.
He said that Hamas had been planning for the conflict since the end of the IDF's three-week operation in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, including digging the tunnels that Israeli ground troops have spent the past weeks tracking and demolishing.
“It was a completely different conflict to the ones in the past,” he told The Times. “In 2008, the airstrike and air surveillance took us by surprise. That war cost us a lot, so we made strategic plans to move the battle from the surface to underground.”
The Hamas fighters all but disappeared from the lenses of the international media during Operation Protective Edge but now that IDF troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip, and IAF planes have halted their attacks, the terrorists are finally coming out of the woodwork.
Al Jazeera correspondent Tamer Al-Mishal was given access to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades militants and gave viewers an unusual glimpse on what's happening behind Hamas' closed doors.
Al-Mishal interviewed Hamas operatives and field commanders, one of them stressing they do not intend to leave their posts following the ceasefire and that they were ready to renew rocket fire and terror attacks against Israel if their demands - among other things, the lifting of the Gaza blockade and the building of a seaport - are not met.
"Our rockets are still aimed at the Israeli vehicles and tanks that are staying in one place. We've blown up more than one of the enemy's tanks in the border area," one of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam militants serving at the armored unit told the reporter who toured their posts.
He added that "at this point, we haven't received orders from the command to leave the field. We're at peak readiness. We'll continue fighting in this place until the cruel enemy agrees to the resistance's demands."
Another Hamas militant told the reporter, "We're telling the enemy, which is under delusions he has won, that we're still here on the border, with all of our measures, and ready to stand strong in this campaign until we achieve all of the conditions."
At a rifle pit, that the reporter said was on the front line, another terrorist said: "We're now in this rifle pit in the Khazaa area because we don't believe the Jews' ploys. From this post we fired at several settlements - among them Eshkol - and we also fired at the enemy's forces concentrations in the Khazaa area."
At the end of the report, Al-Mishal showed an Izz ad-Din al-Qassam militant inside a tunnel that is allegedly on the Israel-Gaza border and still operational. It remains unclear what is the true location of the tunnel and whether or not it is indeed still operational.