Gazan youths, some in uniform, learn how to operate weapons at one of the training camps in the Gaza Strip (Facebook page of PALINFO, January 21, 2015).
1. Hamas, the other terrorist organizations and the security forces in the Gaza Strip have made efforts in the past months to restoremilitary capabilities damaged during Operation Protective Edge. To that end Hamas has allotted considerable funds, manpower and equipment, despite the lack of resources in the Gaza Strip. The military buildup is particularly blatant in view of the continuing delays in the civilian reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. It clearly shows that Hamas' priority is the rehabilitation of its military-terrorist capabilities at the expense of civilian needs. Hamas and terrorist organizations are also making an effort to preserve and reinforce public support for their military-terrorist wings and the so-called "armed resistance" by focusing on the battle for the hearts and minds of young Gazans.
2. That effort includes the following:
1) Recruiting and training adolescents: The military training camps opened by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to Hamas, trained more than 17,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17. They received basic and advanced military training (including the abduction of IDF soldiers and exiting tunnels) and religious indoctrination (See Appendix A). Beyond filling the ranks thinned out by Operation Protective Edge, recruiting adolescents is aimed to increase support for Hamas within the population because of the extreme distress prevalent in the Gaza Strip.
2) Establishing new military frameworks: Hamas has begun constructing its so-called "popular army." On November 7, 2014, it presented the first battalion, claiming it had 2,500 operatives. The "popular army" is supposed to serve as an auxiliary force for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in a future confrontation with Israel. Hamas will probably establish another "popular army" battalion. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) have also allegedly established new military frameworks, claiming they are of battalion strength (See Appendix C).
3) Intensive training exercises carried out within Hamas and the other terrorist organizations: The training stresses storming and taking control of IDF posts near the Gaza Strip border, and abducting IDF soldiers. That is because according to Hamas' perception, that was the modus operandi that brought achievements during Operation Protective Edge, causing Israel the greatest number of losses. That is also a clear indication of the importance the terrorist organizations give to abducting an Israeli soldier or the body of an Israeli soldier to be used as a bargaining chip for the release of terrorists imprisoned in Israel.
4) Military training for the Gazan security forces: The Hamas-controlled national security forces finished two officers' training courses In December 2014. There were 1,000 members in one course and 160 in the other. At one exercise, held in an Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades training facility, the graduates simulated taking over an IDF post. On November 30, 2014, graduation exercises were held for 85 participants in a course for personal security; the graduates demonstrated their military skills (See Appendix B). The internal security forces are considered by Hamas as an important tool in maintaining control over the Gaza Strip and they cooperate closely with the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives drag an Israeli soldier from an IDF post during a simulation exercise (Paltimes.net, December 27, 2014).
Left: A young Gazan boy practices shooting from the so-called "Gilad Shalit tunnel" (Facebook page of Hamas' Pioneers of Liberation camps, January 24, 2015). Right: Operatives practice exiting a tunnel (Facebook page of PALINFO, January 21, 2015).
3. Hamas, its internal security forces and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip have publicly announced their recruiting and training efforts, as well as the establishment of new military frameworks. Their main objective is to raise the morale of the Gazan population, which is low because of the delays in civilian reconstruction. Another objective is to send a deterrent message to Israel, indicating that its military capabilities are not only being rehabilitated but expanded as well.
|4. Hamas' giving priority to its military buildup at the expense of the needs of the civilian population is familiar from the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead. For example, at the time, when the civilian population in the Gaza Strip needed cement to rebuild their houses, Hamas used it to reconstruct its damaged military infrastructure. On November 12, 2009, Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, announced that most of Hamas' efforts would be invested in military reconstruction. He said, “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.” Giving priority to the military buildup over critical civilian needs is, in ITIC assessment, a function of the Hamas leadership's strategic decision, again evident after Operation Protective Edge.|
An examination of the names of Gazan fatalities in Operation Protective Edge indicated adolescents who served in the military-terrorist wings of the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. The extensive recruitment of young men and the intention to use them as auxiliary forces for the regular military-terrorist units is liable to increase the number of those killed and wounded in future confrontations between the terrorist organizations and the IDF, serving Hamas as propaganda material to use against Israel.
For further information see the December 29, 2014 bulletin " Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and National Security Forces Exercises Simulate Takeover of IDF Posts near Gaza Strip and Abduction of Soldiers."
For further information see the August 3, 2014 bulletin "Prioritization of Hamas' Military Buildup vs. the Gaza Strip's Civilian Needs: Hamas' genuine strategic priorities according to Khaled Mashaal, about a year after Operation Cast Lead."
For further information see the August 11, 2014 bulletin "After Operation Cast Lead Hamas Used Cement Delivered to the Gaza Strip to Rebuild and Upgrade Its Military-Terrorist Infrastructure at the Expense of Civilian Needs."