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Monday, December 22, 2008

Israel: Hamas rocket arsenal doubles to 10,000

TEL AVIV — The Israeli intelligence community has determined that the Hamas regime accumulated about 10,000 missiles and rockets.

Officials said Hamas has doubled its missile, mortar and rocket arsenal from about 5,000 to up to 10,000 since June 2008. They said the Islamic regime used the ceasefire with Israel to smuggle and produce thousands of projectiles and other weapons, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Hamas can do to us today what Hizbullah did in the second Lebanon war," an official said, "fire hundreds of rockets and missiles throughout southern Israel."

The intelligence community has determined that Hamas has extended the range of its missiles to between 30 and 40 kilometers. Officials said this would enable Hamas to strike virtually every major city in southern Israel, including Beersheba.

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"Hamas is always trying to improve the range and quality of its missiles," Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said on Dec. 22. "We're regularly keeping track of the type and quality of Hamas's weapons."

On Dec. 21, Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin told the Israeli Cabinet that Hamas has deployed missiles that could reach Ashdod and Beersheba. Diskin said Hamas, led by military chief Ahmed Jabari, was preparing to use its missile arsenal during an Israeli invasion.

"We believe that if we strike at significant assets, they will respond with longer-range fire," Diskin said. "The military wing of Hamas is prepared to continue the military confrontation with Israel. It has improved its rocket-firing capability to long-range, and as of today, is able to reach Kiryat Gat, Ashdod, and even the outskirts of Beersheba."

[On Dec. 22, Hamas said it implemented a 24-hour ceasefire in missile attacks on Israel. A senior Hamas official said the ceasefire stemmed from a request by Egypt.]

Officials said an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip could spark a Hizbullah attack from Lebanon. They said Hizbullah's intervention would depend on Iran and whether it determined that Israel intends to destroy the Hamas regime or merely weaken it.

Over the last six months, officials said, Hamas has enhanced every aspect of its military. They said Hamas has amassed eight brigades, with up to 20,000 combatants, many of them trained in Iran.

Hamas has also equipped its forces with light weapons, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and mortars. Officials said the Hamas forces as well as their Palestinian militia allies also completed training to use the newly-developed tunnel network throughout the Gaza Strip.

Officials said Hamas has overseen the construction of 600 tunnels. They said most of the tunnels were connected to a 50-kilometer underground passage that connected northern to southern Gaza.

"They could be as formidable an enemy as Hizbullah, or they could collapse within two days," the official said. "We know that they are very confident of their skills."



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