Hamas Prepares For Next Military Confrontation With Israel [PHOTOS]

“Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.” (Isaiah 60:18)

Since the last military conflict in Gaza, in July-August 2014, Hamas has been working to restore and build up its strength in advance of the next conflict with Israel renewing its excavation of tunnels and manufacture of rockets, building up its weapons stores , conducting military training exercises, and establishing army camps. Senior movement officials are calling repeatedly for liberating all of Palestine, praising and encouraging jihad, martyrdom, and armed resistance, and threatening to expand their attacks into a full-blown intifada in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Some Hamas officials have called for opening additional fronts against Israel.

Underlining this, Abu ‘Ubaida, the spokesman for Hamas’s ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, said at a ceremony honoring the Rafah martyrs: “The battle is not yet over… The arrogance of the occupation will force upon it new wars, whose shape and character it cannot foresee… Every day, our people are capable of refreshing the [flow of the] blood in the arteries of the resistance, in numerous ways.”

In a speech marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, former Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad said: “Thousands have joined the Al-Qassam Brigades since the last Gaza war… The West Bank will [also] rise up [in an intifada] against the occupation, and the resistance in Jerusalem must be escalated.” It should be noted that at the same time, Hamas leaders are saying that they are not interested in an escalation in Gaza.

Ongoing Rearmament: “The Al-Qassam Factories Are Operating Night And Day”

While Hamas is taking care not to slide into a military escalation against Israel at this time, senior Hamas officials are reiterating the need for ongoing weapons development, and are even boasting that their factories are doing so without letup. At a meeting with public figures in Khan Younis, Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: “The Palestinians must develop their weaponry so they can strike every inch of Palestine. This is our mission, and if we fail to carry it out, we will be betraying you [Palestinians].”

At a closing ceremony for youth training camps, Al-Zahhar said: “Every year until Palestine is liberated, thousands will join the training camps…” He added: “These youths will be standing behind the rockets, firing them at every inch of Palestine in the war of Judgment Day the war for the liberation of Palestine. We pledge not to withhold anything from you not our weapons, not our money, not our efforts, and not our sweat. Generation by generation… whenever there is a school holiday, you will be on the military training grounds, until we accomplish our goal.”

In a similar vein, Hamas political bureau deputy head Isma’il Haniya said in a Friday sermon: “Hamas will continue to gradually build up its weapons, its means of resistance, and its strength, and will maintain them until Palestine is fully liberated.”

Also, former Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad said: “The resistance is planning and preparing, and will continue the jihad always, in preparation for the next liberation battle… Our hands are on the trigger and the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam factories are operating night and day. The day will come and Israel will pay a high price.”

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At a conference at Al-Rabat College, Marwan ‘Issa, the deputy to ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam brigades commander Muhammad Deif, further confirmed that rocket manufacture was continuing: “We do not want a conflict with the Israeli occupation at this time, but we are working to double our strength for any eventual conflict that may come. We are continuing to manufacture rockets, and the enemy’s statements on this matter do not interest us… We are allying with anyone who can provide us with weapons.”

Re-Launching Tunnel Excavations

Hamas has not suspended its excavation of attack tunnels. As early as September 2014, mere weeks after the last round of fighting ended, Al-Zahhar declared, “Hamas has begun rebuilding and [further] developing the tunnels.” On October 19, 2014, the Hamas mouthpiece Al-Risalah reported on the renewal of work on one of Gaza’s attack tunnels in Gaza, citing the commander of a squad specializing in tunnel digging. According to the report, Al-Qassam members are secretly digging around the clock, dozens of meters underground; some tunnels are strategic attack tunnels for killing and kidnapping soldiers and carrying out “quality” attacks in Israel, and others are defensive tactical tunnels for concealing rocket launchers and mortars from Israeli aircraft. The report added that the tunnel viewed by the reporter had been rebuilt during one of the humanitarian truces declared during the actual fighting, and that the Al-Qassam members who were conducting the excavations knew that the work was dangerous but said that they were prepared for martyrdom for the sake of Allah, the religion, and Palestine.

A rebuilt tunnel (Source: Al-Risalah, Gaza, October 19, 2014)
A rebuilt tunnel (Source: Al-Risalah, Gaza, October 19, 2014)

As for the impact of the restrictions on bringing cement into Gaza, an Al-Qassam Brigades member said that Hamas would overcome the shortage by using brick instead.

Military Training For Youth

In further preparations for the next conflict, on January 20-27, 2015 in the Gaza Strip, the Al-Qassam Brigades conducted military training for some 17,000 young people, ages 15-21, at dozens of “Talai’ Al-Tahrir” (Pioneers of Liberation) camps. According to the Hamas-affiliated Palinfo.com, so many signed up for the training camps that the Al-Qassam Brigades ran two sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the evening.

The Al-Qassam Brigades advertised the camps in mosques and public places, and on its official website. Registration was conducted at stands on Gaza’s main streets; the stands, which had signs reading “The Nucleus Of The Next Liberation Army,” were manned by masked fighters.

Registration stand for Gaza training camps (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 18, 2015)
Registration stand for Gaza training camps (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 18, 2015)

An Al-Qassam Brigades commander said that the brigades were recruiting as many teens as possible so they could acquire military skills, train with live ammunition, and practice civil defense and first aid. He added, “The Al-Qassam Brigades are working to prepare a thousands-strong liberation army, based on an Islamic education.”

Training With Live Ammunition

(Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 25-29, 2015)
(Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 25-29, 2015)

The training at the camps included drilling with live ammunition; Hamas officials were present during the training. According to the Arab news website noonpost.net,  the effort is aimed at forming the core of a popular army comprising members from all sectors of society, and at preparing the teens both ideologically and militarily for jihad and for the fight against Israel. Youths who participated in the camps stated that they had come to learn how to kidnap Israeli soldiers and liberate Jerusalem.

Poster announcing the camps (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza?fref=photo, January 10, 2015)
Poster announcing the camps (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza?fref=photo, January 10, 2015)

Youths participating in the camps said they wanted to learn how to kidnap soldiers, and wanted to join the commando forces and realize the right of return. Muhammad, 17, from the Nuseirat refugee camp said: “Resistance is our pride and strength. I joined the camp to become part of the elite youth of the Al-Qassam Brigades and kidnap Zionist soldiers in order to liberate my cousin from the occupation’s prisons.” Ahmad Al-Hosni, 19, said: “I joined the camps in order to become a soldier in the Palestinian liberation army, and therefore I want to train with every kind of weapon and military equipment. I am an excellent swimmer and will ask the camp administration to join the naval commandoes.” He added that he dreamed of diving in the sea “until [I] reach the Jaffa coast.”

Training in tunnels (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 27, 2015)
Training in tunnels (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 27, 2015)

At the camps’ January 27, 2015 closing ceremony, Hamas political bureau deputy director Isma’il Haniya said: “The people’s rallying around the resistance will thwart all of [Israel’s] plans to harm the image of Hamas and of the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades… The Al-Qassam Brigades’ camps are a strategic enterprise [aimed at] raising the generation of victory and liberation. Resistance and preparations for bearing arms against the enemy are no longer optional, but have become a culture embraced not only by Hamas, but by every Palestinian home and every Palestinian sector.”

Haniya, and other senior Hamas officials at camps' closing ceremony (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 29, 2015)
Haniya, and other senior Hamas officials at camps’ closing ceremony (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 29, 2015)
Poster announcing the camps' closing ceremony (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 29, 2015)
Poster announcing the camps’ closing ceremony (Source: Facebook.com/camps.gaza/photos, January 29, 2015)

Establishing Training Camps In Advance Of The Formation Of A Regular Popular Army

The Al-Qassam Brigades are also preparing for the next conflict with Israel by establishing military camps. Recently, the Al-Qassam Brigades’ preparation and training division began constructing two camps, named Al-Yarmouk and Filastin, near the Israel-Gaza border. A department official said: “The brigades will continue to train, with no fear of Israel.” He added, “The training is also meant to assure the residents that the resistance is in good shape, that it has not ceased operations as the occupation claims, and that it is on the frontlines to defend the people.”

Training camps under construction (Source: Alqassam.ps, March 14, 2015)
Training camps under construction (Source: Alqassam.ps, March 14, 2015)

Hamas political bureau head Isma’il Haniya recently visited a training camp located one kilometer from the Israeli border and looked through binoculars at the Israeli moshav of Netiv Haasara. He said: “Hamas’s enterprise focuses on resistance as a strategic option for [realizing the goal of] liberation and return and not [the goal of establishing] a temporary state or a state in the Gaza Strip.”[16]

It is interesting to note that joint training was conducted for the first time by the military wings of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the Al-Quds Brigades) and Hamas (the Al-Qassam Brigades). The Hamas website Al-Majd explained: “The training is a deterring message to the occupation from the resistance, as well as a message of strength for the domestic Palestinian front.”[17]

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members join hands (Source: Felesteen.ps, Almajd.ps, March 8, 2015)
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members join hands (Source: Felesteen.ps, Almajd.ps, March 8, 2015)

As part of its preparation for a future conflict, Hamas is making it clear that it aims to transform its militias into a regular popular army that will train recruits to use light arms and mortars. An Al-Qassam Brigades statement posted in the ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam mosque in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza called on youth to register with a brigades representative to begin training as part of the popular army. A brigades representative said: “Thousands of youths have already registered for training.”[18]

Hamas later announced the graduation of the first class, of 2,500 activists, of its popular army. At the commencement ceremony, several of the graduating activists held signs with a photo of Ibrahim Akari, the perpetrator of the November 5, 2014 vehicular terrorist attack in Jerusalem.[19]

Hamas Marks Anniversary With Large-Scale Military Display

Hamas marked the December 14, 2014  anniversary of its founding with a show of strength. In a large-scale military parade – the first since the July-August fighting – it showed off its units as well as the various weapons in its possession, among them long range R-160 rockets, J-80 missiles, and Iranian-made Ababil drones.[20]

Following the parade, Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu ‘Ubeida said: “The history of Hamas and its fighting brigades sets before us a glorious and honorable picture of preparing and producing weapons and excavating through rock to resist the occupier and cause it pain. Today, after many years, this picture has produced the Al-Qassam Army, as you and the world see, with its fighting units that participate today in this impressive display: artillery units, marine units, the elite unit, the tunnel unit, the sniper unit, the armored unit, the infantry unit, and the aerial defense unit. These are not [mere] names and nicknames – they are fighting units that subdued the enemy on Gaza’s doorstep, broke its arrogant pretense, and humiliated their opponents on the land, in the sea, and in the air, with the grace of Allah the Almighty.”[21]

Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)
Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)
Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)
Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)
Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)
Hamas weapons on display (Source: Palinfo.com, December 14, 2015; Felesteen.ps, December 15, 2014)

Encouraging Terrorist Attacks, Intifada In West Bank And Jerusalem

Along with the buildup of Hamas forces in Gaza, the movement is encouraging terror attacks in Jerusalem. Taking advantage of the tension in the city that spiked due to rumors that Israel aimed to change the existing status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque, it called for resisting the occupation by all available means and at any time. Hamas spokesmen praised previous attackers, some of them Hamas members or affiliates, and called on the Palestinian people to continue such operations. Articles in Hamas newspapers and websites also praised the attacks, and promised even more qualitative and creative attacks in the future; some stressed that the conflict was religious, not political.

Hamas also tried to expand the circle of violence to the entire West Bank, with the aim of sparking a new intifada. Its spokesmen harshly criticized the Palestinian Authority, demanding that it end security coordination with Israel and allow the Palestinian people to express their rage, resist the occupation, and launch a Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa intifada.

Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash’al called on all Palestinian factions to resist the occupation’s activity in Jerusalem, and criticized the political weakness of the PA. In an interview with the Qatar daily Al-Sharq, Mash’al said: “[The response should be] resistance and inciting the people against the occupation, since this deters the enemy. This matter is not just the responsibility of Hamas, but rather of all factions together and of the Palestinian leadership. Every Palestinian official should accept national, political, and historic responsibility in light of the unprecedented dangers faced by the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”[22]

Addressing the possibility of a third intifada, Mash’al said that “things are boiling below the surface, and some of this is already above the ground. All the obstacles and attempts to bury and thwart this will fail, Allah willing. The Palestinian volcano will not tarry, and will erupt in the face of the occupation.”[23]

The Hamas information office also incited demonstrations, with a campaign called “Al-Aqsa is Ours.” Hamas deputy information minister Ihab Al-Ghussein said: “We respect and appreciate the stand of East Jerusalem residents who bravely face the occupation.” He went on to call on all Arabs and Muslims to join the campaign for Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem.[24] The information office set November 23 as a day of sympathy with Al-Aqsa.[25]

At a meeting in Khan Younis, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: “We can rely on the reservoir of resistance in the West Bank. Vehicular attacks are one of its inventions.”[26] In a November 25, 2014 press release, Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran called on the PA to join the people: “This could be its final chance to change its path and policy; otherwise, history will have no mercy for it, and the people will not forgive anyone who prevents the right of resisting the occupation.”[27]

Facebook page for Hamas newspaper: Hero, grab your weapon (Source: Facebook.com/alresalahNet, November 19, 2014)
Facebook page for Hamas newspaper: Hero, grab your weapon (Source: Facebook.com/alresalahNet, November 19, 2014)

Glorifying Jihad And Suicide Attacks

Hamas’s preparation for the next conflict also includes preaching and inciting jihad and suicide attacks. As stated, the Hamas leadership praised recent terrorist attacks, especially those in Jerusalem, and called their perpetrators hero martyrs who serve as role models for courage and creativity because they carried out brave operations and gave their lives for Al-Aqsa Mosque.[28]

Thus, for example, Hamas praised ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shaludi, who carried out a vehicular attack on a Jerusalem light rail station on October 22, calling him “a hero martyr.”[29] Hamas also praised “the Al-Shaludi family for its jihad and the sacrifices it made in its brave stand.”[30] Hussam Badran even said that the operation was “a heroic act and a natural right that should be emulated.”[31]

Hamas also praised the November 5, 2014 Jerusalem vehicular attack by Ibrahim Al-Akari, whom they called “the hero martyrdom attacker… who avenged his people and the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem…”[32] The ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades also praised “the holy warriors of Hamas and the heroes of Jerusalem, who mobilized to defend Jerusalem with their lives and sacrificed their blood on its doorstep.”[33]

Hamas official Younis Al-Astal also spoke in praise of jihad, at a conference in honor of the martyrs in Khan Younis: “Armed resistance is the only way to liberate Palestine… The Israelis think that, by means of siege and [promises of] rebuilding, they can blackmail us with regards to the resistance and its weapons. They are daydreaming… These are our weapons, this is our spirit, and jihad for the sake of Allah is our life.”[34]

When the murderers of the three youths who were kidnapped in Hebron area were killed, columnist Khaled Ma’ali praised their “martyrdom” on a Hamas website: “Martyrdom is the wish of any fighter. Martyrdom for the sake of Allah is a goal for which [fighters] impatiently yearn.”[35]

On the 11th anniversary of the death of Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin, the organization inaugurated a monument in his honor and declared that it would “never lay down its arms of resistance or stop resisting the Zionist occupation.”[36]

Hamas Attempts To Launch Additional Fronts

Alongside preparations for the next conflict, Hamas broke their tradition of not operating against Israel from Arab countries and called to open additional fronts. At a February 4, 2015 political conference in Gaza, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, from the Hamas political leadership, called on Syria and Lebanon to enable the establishment of military cells subordinate to Hamas’s military wing, the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, in refugee camps on their soil “so that they can run the resistance from [the lands] north of Palestine [as well] and participate with us in its liberation.”

This statement by a high-ranking Hamas official shows that the movement intends to open a second front against Israel from Syria and Lebanon, which it has thus far refrained from doing.

Following Al-Zahhar’s statements, ‘Emad Zaqout, news division chief at Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, wrote in an article titled “What is the Secret behind Dr. Al-Zahhar’s Statement?” that Hamas wants every conflict with Israel to be an all-out conflict, and to include attacks on Israel from its northern border as well. Zaqout even revealed that during the recent Gaza conflict, rockets had been launched into Israel from Lebanon by elements operated by the Al-Qassam Brigades:

“In the recent Gaza war, which lasted some two months, the Al-Qassam Brigades operated several groups in Arab countries bordering occupied Palestine, so that they could launch some rockets at cities in northern occupied Palestine and cause confusion in the assessments of the Zionist enemy.

“It seems that Hamas’s leadership thinks, and is planning, that every future war against the Zionist enemy will be all-out, meaning that it will encompass every inch of land in Palestine, and make matters difficult for the enemy. The leadership began preparing for this immediately after the Gaza campaign, and possibly even during it.

“In this context, ties were renewed between Hamas and Hizbullah, which motivated Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a member of Hamas’s political leadership, to state at a political conference recently held by Hamas’s information office in northern Gaza that the movement is working to establish groups belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades in Lebanese refugee camps close to northern Palestine.

“I believe that Al-Zahhar’s statements were made in coordination with high-ranking Hizbullah officials. Also worthy of mention is the letter sent by the fighting [Al-Qassam Brigades commander] Muhammad Deif to Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, asking the [Lebanese] resistance to [complement] the fire in occupied Palestine with crossfire from Lebanon.

“The question is whether Dr. Al-Zahhar’s statements also apply to the Palestinian presence in Syria, Jordan, and even Egypt.”[37]

Also, on February 23, 2015, Hamas official Fathi Hammad said at a conference that was also attended by Hamas political bureau deputy head Haniya: “We must open new fronts from all the countries surrounding Israel, and also from those that do not share a border with it.”[38]

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Endnotes:

[1] Palinfo.com, November 13, 2014.

[2] Paltimes.net December 12, 2014.

[3] Palinfo.com, November 15, 2014.

[4] Al-Risalah (Gaza), January 29, 2015.

[5] Palinfo.com, October 4, 2014.

[6] Alzaytouna.net, November 2, 2014.

[7] Palinfo.com, March 2, 2015.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), September 20, 2014.

[9] Al-Risalah (Gaza), October 19, 2014’s; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5863,”Hamas’ Construction Of Gaza Tunnels Continues,” October 23, 2014.

[10] Paltoday.ps, October 29, 2014.

[11] Palinfo.com, January 23, 2015.

[12] Noonpost.net, January 22, 2015.

[13] Noonpost.net, January 22, 2015.

[14] Palinfo.com, January 27, 2015.

[15] Alqassam,ps, March 14, 2015.

[16] Al-Hayat (London), April 6, 2014.

[17] Felesteen.ps, almajd.ps, March 8, 2015.

[18] Felesteen.ps, September 25, 2014.

[19] Al-Ayyam (PA), November 8, 2014; Al-Risalah (Gaza), November 7, 2014.

[21] Palinfo.com, December 14, 2014.

[22] Al-Sharq (Qatar), November 9, 2014.

[24] Paltoday.ps, November 23, 2014.

[25] Palinfo.com, December 21, 2014.

[26] Palinfo.com, November 25, 2014.

[27] Palinfo.com, November 25, 2014.

[29] Palinfo.com, November 23, 2014.

[30] Paltoday.ps, October 23, 2014.

[31] Alresalah.ps, October 23, 2014.

[32] Israj.net, November 5, 2014.

[33] Palinfo.com, November 5, 2014.

[34] Al-Risalah (Gaza), October 23, 2014.

[35] Felesteen.ps, September 23, 2015.

[36] Palinfo.com, March 21, 2015.

[37] Alwatanvoice.com, February 6, 2015.

[38] Palinfo.com, February 24, 2015.