"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."