Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations are intensifying efforts to rebuild military capabilities damaged during last summer's war with Israel, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports. In light of ongoing delays in civilian reconstruction, Hamas clearly is prioritizing re-arming its terrorist forces over the population's wellbeing.
In 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal admitted that most of the terrorist group's efforts would be devoted to a military build-up.
"Outwardly the visible picture is talks about reconciliation…and construction; however, the hidden picture is that most of the money and effort is invested in the resistance and military preparations," Meshaal said.
The term "resistance" is often used in reference to terrorist attacks targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Hamas also is actively recruiting youth to participate in terrorist training camps. More than 17,000 recruits between the ages of 15 and 17 have been trained in the abduction of Israeli troops, exiting tunnels, and radical Islamist indoctrination. In addition to replenishing lost fighters, these training programs seek to enhance Hamas' popularity in Gaza while the civilians suffer from deteriorating living standards largely because of the terrorist organization's military rebuilding priorities.
Moreover, Hamas has created a military framework which now features the first battalion in its new "popular army" including 2,500 fighters who will support the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades in a future battle with Israel. Other terrorist organizations, including The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, reportedly have established similar military structures.
Terrorist training exercises include taking control of Israeli military posts near the Gaza border and kidnapping soldiers. Hamas believes that abducting an Israeli soldier or the body of a soldier will help it secure the release of jailed terrorists in future negotiations.
Earlier reports following the last war also confirmed that Hamas was diverting reconstruction material in order to rebuild its network of underground infiltration tunnels. Shortly after the summer war, Hamas and Fatah's military wing bragged about their domestic missile production capabilities and efforts.
Hamas reportedly test-fired several new rockets over the Mediterranean Sea last month.
Gaza's terrorist organizations continue to exploit the ceasefire and resources intended for civilian projects to bolster offensive military capabilities as they actively prepare for the next war with Israel.