An Israeli think tank has publicised its concerns regarding the growth of Hamas both politically and militarily in the past three years.
Hamas, since its humble beginnings as an offshoot of the The Muslim Brotherhood, has grown from the Islamic Resistance Movement created in 1987 to the democratically elected majority of the Palestinian Parliament in 2006. It now has control over the bulk of the Gaza Strip, much to the discontent of political rivals Abu Mazen and Fatah who are unwilling to acknowledge and accept Hamas’s authority.
The report, issued by the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, proposes that in order to displace Hamas’s infrastructure it would incur an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) operation not so dissimilar to the one with Hezbollah in 2006, when the IDF crossed the border and entered Lebanon.
Israel believes that the IDF operation with Hezbollah in 2006 was a strategic role model for Hamas in its use of asymmetric warfare and tactical military response to any IDF incursions within Gaza.
According to the report Hezbollah’s main source of infrastructure is located in the mountainous and forested areas of South Lebanon, which gives Hezbollah a lot more breathing space and time to recoup, regroup and receive arms with relative ease.
Whereas “the Gaza Strip is flat and exposed … has continuous, densely populated areas which are advantageous for a defending force and difficult for regular army forces to operate in.”
The report goes on to specify Hamas’s military capabilities, upgrades and support from neighbouring countries. It voices concern for the State of Israel over Hamas’s continued build up of arms and specialised weapons, now capable of reaching far into land occupied by Israeli settlers.
There are an alleged 20,000 armed Hamas operatives stationed in and around Gaza who, according to the glossy 51-page document, not only possess locally made Qassam short range rockets, but, also have “several dozens of long range 122mm rockets, dozens of anti tank missiles, a few dozens of various anti aircraft machineguns, tens of thousands of rifles and millions of bullets”.
Most of these weapons must be smuggled into Gaza through an intricate and dangerous labyrinth of tunnels and across numerous borders and checkpoints from neighbouring allies in Egypt, Iran, Syria and the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a role reversal of the “David and Goliath” comparison, Israel and the IDF have an estimated 168,000 active armed personnel on the ground, and can mobilise many more thousands of reserve soldiers including paramilitary without hesitation or the slightest of effort.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, Israel has received a total of $81.3 billion in US aid in the past decade and remains one of the top beneficiaries of US military and economic assistance.
Israel has a commanding military arsenal as well as an intentionally undisclosed amount of nuclear weapons. The IDF also receive free weapons from the US as part of the Excess Defence Articles Program. An extensive inventory of these free US weapons was produced in 2002, a small snapshot of which is as follows: 64,744 M-16A1 rifles, 2,469 grenade launchers, 1500 M2 .05 calibre machine guns and numerous different types of ammunition.
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