Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, is engaged in the largest military buildup in its history with help from Iran and Syria, and is stocking its arsenal with missiles that can reach far into Israel, a new study reveals.
The study by an independent research group with close ties to the Israeli military “is the first comprehensive analysis of the Hamas buildup,” Reuven Erlich, head of Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center — which produced the study — told the New York Times.
“It is based on a wide range of sources. And what is very clear is that Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is aiming to use rocket fire to draw the Israeli military in.”
Hamas has smuggled at least 80 tons of explosives into Gaza since last summer, accounting for more than half the amount moved there since Israel’s withdrawal in the summer of 2005 — which is evidence of the pace of the buildup, the study points out.
Hamas now has advanced anti-tank weapons like those used by Hezbollah against Israel in 2006, and powerful roadside bombs that can be placed in areas where Israeli vehicles are likely to pass in pursuit of rocket launchers.
The study discloses that Hamas has factory-produced rockets, probably made in Iran, than can reach major Israeli population centers in the south, including Ashkelon.
The 52-page study, released Thursday and obtained by the Times, also states that Hamas has about 20,000 men it can mobilize under arms — many of them trained in Iran, Lebanon and Syria — and that the motivation for the buildup is Hamas’ fear that Israel will again invade Gaza.
A senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, called the study’s findings “an exaggeration, a clear step aiming to scare the region by selling an image of Gaza as a military place.”
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