Israel: Hamas is once again building rockets, digging tunnels

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TEL AVIV — Israel has determined that Hamas renewed rocket production and tunnel construction in the Gaza Strip.

A senior official said Hamas launched a rearmament effort in wake of the 50-day war with Israel. The official said Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies were producing Iranian-origin medium-range rockets that struck major Israeli cities in July and August 2014.

Entrance to a tunnel linking Gaza and Israel.  /Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Entrance to a tunnel linking Gaza and Israel. /Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

“The organization is renewing the production of missiles and restoring attack tunnels,” the official said.

This marked the first report that Hamas renewed military preparations for another confrontation with Israel. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the military had asserted that Hamas sustained a crushing blow during the war.

The official said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian forces also resumed weapons smuggling from neighboring Egypt. He said Hamas was employing dozens of tunnels that survived Israeli air and ground strikes.

“Hamas is testing Israel to see whether it will respond,” the official said. “Hamas has already begun preparing for the next confrontation with Israel and is focused on replenishing its arsenals.”

Another official confirmed Hamas military operations. The official said Military Intelligence prepared a report for the government on Hamas plans to rebuild its military.

Israel has concluded that Hamas was focusing on the production of the M-75 rocket, with a range of up to 80 kilometers and deemed a variant of Iran’s Fajr-5. Officials, in an assertion that disputed statements by the military and government, said Hamas retained 40 percent of its rocket production capability.

For weeks, Netanyahu had demanded the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip as part of a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the demand was no longer feasible and predicted renewed fighting.

“Any ceasefire, in my opinion, will be limited in time,” Lieberman said.on Sept. 7.

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