Israeli Defense Minister says they are ready for Hamas

Israel's defense minister said on Monday that Israel is preparing for the possibility of another round of fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza city, on March 22, 2015. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)
Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza city, on March 22, 2015. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the comments on board USS Carney, an American battleship currently located in Haifa amid a joint U.S.-Israeli military drill.

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza city, on March 22, 2015. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)
Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a parade to mark the 11th anniversary of the Israeli assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza city, on March 22, 2015. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)
“We’ve been enjoying unprecedented quiet, Hamas hasn’t fired one bullet,” Ya’alon told reporters on Monday, referring to the relative quiet since the end of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

The defense minister also acknowledged, however, an increase in Hamas’s strength.

“Hamas is trying to arm itself with rockets,” Ya’alon said, also noting Hamas are conducting tests on rockets that are fired into the sea. He also reckoned Hamas is building underground tunnels to carry out attacks against Israel.

“We’ve been preparing for the possibility that at some point will be opened in the south, and we’ll have to deal with it … We’re not stagnate and we operate both with defensive and offensive measures,” he added.

More than 70 Israelis and over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the 2014 war, since which there had been few, sporadic rocket attacks against southern Israeli communities — believed by military officials to be mostly the work of Islamist groups within the strip.

In January, the Ha’aretz daily reported that Hamas had rebuilt most of the underground tunnels that were destroyed by the Israeli army in the 2014 war.

According to the report, based on assessments by Israeli security officials, the number of current tunnels approaches that prior to the war, in which Israel discovered 32 of them. A third of these tunnels made their way into Israeli territory.

Part of the 2014 military campaign was said to be aimed at destroying these tunnels, thus preventing militants from carrying out attacks against Israelis living in communities near the Gaza border.

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after feuding with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in 2007. Since then there have been several rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Other than the mounting tensions between Israel and Hamas on the Gaza front, the Islamist group also called upon Palestinians in the West Bank recently to carry out suicide bombing attacks against Israelis, which were a common practice of resistance in the mid-1990’s and early 2000’s, during the days of the second intifada, or armed uprising.

The call came amid five months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, which claimed the lives of 27 Israelis and more than 170 Palestinians.

Source: Xinhua, February 23, 2016

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