Hamas in Gaza is once again prepared for a military campaign against Israel, a senior member of the IDF's Gaza Division told officials from a Gaza border community this week. The group "has rebuilt the tunnels, its rocket systems, intelligence collection, reconnaissance, and it is essentially prepared for war," said the source.
The source added, however, that Hamas is not currently believed to desire a conflict with Israel and is in fact a moderating influence in the Gaza Strip.
The military source, who frequently meets with residents of Gaza border communities and Sderot, spoke at a meeting to brief local authorities about the security situation some 18 months after Operation Protective Edge.
"Such important things coming from the mouth of a senior IDF official certainly don't always give us new information that we don't already know," said a participant in the meeting, "but they certainly pose a view of the future that is definitely troubling and concerning, and they confirm the belief that the next round of fighting is only a matter of time, as if often said."
As noted earlier, the IDF official said the organization is not interested in a showdown with Israel and is actually busy dealing with small Salafist groups attempting to exacerbate tensions between Israel and Hamas, for example in an incident last week in which a terrorist cell placed an explosive device at the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The official also discussed measures to protect the population, including evacuating it in the event of an emergency.
Different security scenarios were examined at the meeting, including firefights between a terror cell infiltrating through a tunnel and IDF troops inside an urban area.
"This was the second exercise we've had in the past six months," said another security source who participated in the drill simulating such an event. "Operation Protective Edge showed up that Sderot is not only exposed to rockets, like it was in recent years, but also to the possibility of infiltration from underground. We are therefore responding and drilling such a possibility. Now we have a civilian armed emergency squad capable of an initial response until military forces arrive at the scene."