JERUSALEM – Palestinian terrorist groups yesterday used a former Gaza Strip Jewish city evacuated by Israel in 2005 to test explosives and rockets for use against Israel, according to senior members of Hamas’ so-called military wing, who said they were preparing for a “coming” confrontation.

Hamas members told WND they utilized Nezer Hazani, a former city of Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of uprooted Jewish communities, to test new rockets and explosives. One Hamas member was killed during yesterday’s explosives training exercises, the Hamas members said.

Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared “resistance” department, told WND in recent weeks his group turned three other former Gaza Jewish towns, Eli Sinai, Dagit, and Neve Dekalim into advanced training zones.

The terror leader said the cities are now being used for “physical shape exercises; use of weapons training; practice lands for ambushes of Israeli forces; courses for the reading of maps and [production and use of] explosives and many other trainings; military techniques, fighting in open fields and in built and populated areas; and rockets shooting.”

Abu Abdullah called the utilization by Hamas of the former Jewish towns for anti-Israel activity “proof that the resistance works.”

He said Hamas has stepped up the pace of its training the past few weeks because of a “coming” confrontation with Israel.

“We think that the confrontation with Israel is not a question of if but a question of when … . The Israeli officers say everyday that a big operation in Gaza is being prepared and is waiting for the decision of the enemy government,” he said.

Hamas sources said until recently, Palestinian training in Gaza was conducted quietly. They said the recent public testing of explosives should be “taken by Israel as a warning Palestinian groups are ready for a confrontation.”

The reports of military training in Gaza come after the Israeli Defense Forces announced Iran, Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia are preparing for a U.S.-led war this summer.

IDF Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told the Knesset yesterday Iran and Syria believe a war this summer will be initiated by the U.S. and that Israel will be involved. He said Israel has been monitoring Iranian fortification of Tehran’s military positions; Syrian military movements and indications of war preparation with the help of Iran; and the large-scale smuggling of Iranian-supplied weapons to Hezbollah. He also spoke of military preparations by Hamas in Gaza.

WND reported earlier this month Iran has been working with Palestinian groups in Gaza to help improve the range of Palestinian rockets, smuggle in mass quantities of weapons, construct underground bunkers and build guerrilla-like armies.

Israel says Hamas is sending hundreds of Gaza-based militants to Iran for prolonged periods of advanced training and that the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert recently increased six-fold. Israeli officials say Palestinian terror groups were taking advantage of a cease-fire signed in November to enhance rockets and create a complex system of underground war bunkers.

In November, Israel agreed to a truce with Gaza militants in which the Jewish state vowed to suspend anti-terror operations in the Gaza Strip in exchange for quiet. Since then, more than 170 rockets have been fired from Gaza, but the IDF has been restrained from operating in the territory.

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