Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally in memory of their seven comrades, who were killed when a tunnel collapsed close to the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Hamas official claimed that Hamas was not interested in an escalation of violence and was committed to a truce with Israel, despite recent reports that it was strengthening its military wing and upped its deployment along the Gaza border, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
Israel Radio also reported that Hamas was stepping up its deployment along the border between Gaza and Egypt, and had established new outposts.
According to Israel Radio, the official said that Israel had audio messages from Hamas claiming the group has no interest in an escalation of violence, although the source added that Hamas continues to deploy fighters and build its military wing. Any decision to go to war will come from the political branch of Hamas and not its military wing, the source concluded.
Yesterday, an IDF source confirmed that the IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly
over the past two years, and the Southern Command’s war preparations have been enhanced as a result.
The Southern Command is carefully monitoring Hamas’s 25 regional battalions and has prepared detailed files on each one as part of preparations for ground forces that could, in the event of a future escalation, be sent in to Gaza to land “painful strikes” on Hamas, according to the source.
“We did not have this level of knowledge in Operation Protective Edge [in 2014],” the source said. “Our brigade, battalion, and company commanders are assigned regions, and will know many things that will assist them in destroying their targets,” the high-ranking officer added.
Their orders will be to kill or capture as many Hamas operatives as they encounter and destroy infrastructure. “In every location, missions will be very clear. The brigade commanders will need to reach areas marked by blue arrows on a map... They will destroy weapons production centers as well,” he said.
The Southern Command has spent the past year and a half making intensive preparations for potential future conflicts.
Plans include spreading out a “stronger defense” of southern communities, and a better layout of staging areas, that were targeted by Hamas in the previous conflict.
Preparations also include holding roundtables between the Southern Command and General Staff military entities like Military Intelligence, the air force, navy, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Military Prosecution.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.