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Friday, June 18, 2010     GET REAL

Israeli intel: Hamas will use cement shipments
for military purposes

TEL AVIV — Israel will expand the import of cement and building materials to the Gaza Strip.


The decision by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came after warnings that the Hamas regime was seizing cement and other material for the construction of rocket bunkers and tunnels.

The intelligence agencies said Hamas required cement to complete its tunnel network and seaport as part of preparations for the next war with the Jewish state.

"It was agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza and expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision," Netanyahu's office said on June 17.

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The decision by the so-called Security Cabinet also included measures to prevent the flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip. The Cabinet panel concluded what the statement termed "extensive discussion" over two days.

Officials acknowledged that the heads of the intelligence communities warned that Hamas would use cement and other construction material for its war infrastructure. They said a key Hamas goal was to complete its port in Gaza City, which could result in the steady shipment of ballistic missiles.

The Cabinet decision was released three days after the Israeli intelligence community asserted that Hamas was seeking to rebuild its military infrastructure destroyed in the war in January 2009. The state-sponsored Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center assessed that Hamas would seize cement imports meant for civilian construction.

"The cement shortage in the Gaza Strip makes it difficult to carry out rehabilitation works and improve the living conditions of the population," the report said. "However, reliable intelligence indicates that Hamas uses cement for military needs as part of its overall strategy of giving priority to its military infrastructure over the needs of Gaza Strip residents."

The report said Hamas required cement for military compounds, tunnels, weapons storage facilities and rocket launch sites. Hamas was said to have smuggled cement and produced its own concrete.

"We believe that delivering significant quantities of cement to the Gaza Strip will, indeed, help the population," the report said. "At the same time, Hamas will attempt to divert meaningful quantities of it to military needs, taking advantage of its control over the Gaza Strip and the inability of local civilian population to influence the priorities of the Hamas de facto administration."

The intelligence community has determined that Hamas's military has increased consumption of cement and concrete to build sites destroyed in the 23-day war with Israel nearly 18 months ago. The report said Hamas was building military facilities in urban areas in an effort to create a civilian shield.

"Hamas places considerable significance on its underground infrastructure, used for both defensive and offensive needs — such as minimizing the exposure of terrorist operatives and munitions, transporting operatives between areas, and carrying out attacks by digging tunnels from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory," the report said.

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