JERUSALEM – Hamas has succeeded in smuggling “hundreds of tons” of weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and is preparing for the possibility of launching a large-scale conflict with Israel, according to a report by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
The report, drafted by Fatah’s General Security Services and obtained by WND, stated Hamas has smuggled from the Egyptian Sinai desert between several hundred and 1,300 tons of advanced rockets; anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles; rocket propelled grenades; raw explosives; rifles; ammunition; and other heavy weaponry.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last year. In a deal brokered in November by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Egypt-Gaza border, once controlled by the Jewish state, now is manned by Egyptian and Palestinian security officials and is observed by European monitors. The monitors reportedly have fled their duty several times the past few months.
Israeli security officials have noted multiple breaches in border security, including the transport of terrorists and weapons across the border. They say several key sections of the border are penetrable and that smuggling tunnels that snake under the border are “thriving.”
The Fatah report follows statements last month by Yuval Diskin, director of Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services, warning since the Jewish state withdrew from Gaza, the Palestinians successfully have transferred hundreds of tons of weapons into the Strip.
“If we don’t move to counter this smuggling, it will continue and create a situation in Gaza similar to the one in southern Lebanon,” Diskin said.
Diskin was referring to Hezbollah’s development of large rocket and weapons arsenals in south Lebanon for use against Israel.
Hezbollah ‘turning Gaza into south Lebanon’
Speaking to WND, senior terror leaders in Gaza, including militants from Abbas’ Fatah party, agreed with Diskin’s assessment.
“I think Diskin made those statements to try to distract the Israelis from their losses in Lebanon by focusing on another area, but he is right. We are turning Gaza into south Lebanon,” said Abu Ahmed, northern Gaza leader for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group.
“We learned from Hezbollah’s victory that Israel can be defeated if we know how to hit them and if we are well prepared,” Abu Ahmed said. “We are importing rockets and the knowledge to launch them and we are also making many plans for battle.”
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ so-called “military wing” told WND his group is preparing for war against Israel.
“In the last 15 months, even though the fighters of Hamas kept the cease-fire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the cease-fire, the world shall see our new military capabilities,” said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared “resistance” department.
Al Aqsa’s Abu Ahmed said his group is receiving help from Hezbollah to import long-range rockets and train in guerrilla warfare tactics.
“We have warm relations with Hezbollah, which helps with some of the training programs,” Abu Ahmed said. “We don’t have anything to be ashamed of – that we are dealing with Hezbollah and that we are receiving training and information from them.”
He said Hezbollah maintains cells in the Sinai.
“The Sinai is an excellent ground for training, the exchange of information and weapons and for meetings on how to turn every piece of land into usable territory for a confrontation with Israel,” Abu Ahmed said.
The terror leader said Palestinian groups are developing war bunkers inside Gaza similar to the underground Hezbollah lairs Israel found during last month’s war in Lebanon.
“Our preparations include the building of special bunkers. Of course, we are taking into consideration that Gaza is not the same topography as Lebanon,” Abu Ahmed said.
During its confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel destroyed scores of complex bunkers that snaked along the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Military officials said they were surprised by the scale of the Hezbollah bunkers, in which Israeli troops reportedly found war rooms stocked with advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment they noted were made by Iran.
Abu Ahmed said the most important “tool” in the “Palestinian resistance arsenal was rockets. He said his group learned from Hezbollah that Israel can be defeated with missiles.
“We saw that with the capacity to bombard the Israeli population with hundreds of rockets every day we can change the strategic balance with Israel,” he said.
Since Israel’s Gaza withdrawal, Palestinian terror groups have been regularly firing rockets at nearby Jewish communities. The terrorists generally have fired three versions of Qassam rockets, improvised steel projectiles filled with explosives and fuel. Qassams can travel between one and five miles depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket.
Israel has noted improvements in Qassams, including rockets carrying double engines.
Israeli security officials say a large number of Katyusha rockets have been brought into Gaza. Katyushas can travel about 12 miles and can deliver large payloads. Hezbollah fired more than 2,800 Katyusha rockets into Israel in July and August, devastating many northern towns.
In August, Islamic Jihad fired a Katyusha rocket into the Israeli Negev. It landed in an empty area. In June the group fired a Katyusha-like rocket that traveled about nine miles.
“The Katyusha we fired (in August) shows we can have every weapon we need,” said Abu Ahmed. “It is only a matter of a small period before Gaza is ready for war.”