gallant 298 .
(photo credit: IDF)
Hamas is on its way to establishing a military division of some 10,000 soldiers with a strategic model based on Hizbullah, OC Southern Command Yoav Galant said Tuesday.
"Hamas is establishing an organized division with a capability against tanks and with missiles that could reach threatening distances," Galant told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Galant went on to say that Hamas was organizing itself into a "professional" army, with battalions, divisions and perhaps even more in preparation to battle IDF forces.
In addition to the antitank and missile systems, Hamas might also gain access to advanced weapons systems as well as night-vision apparatuses, said Galant.
Since the second war in Lebanon ended, the Committee has heard reports from a number of intelligence officials on the increased weapons smuggling in the Gaza Strip. According to the officials, Palestinian forces are seeking to emulate the model created by Hizbullah during the recent war.
Galant told the committee that the IDF's ability to weaken Hamas's weapons capabilities is being limited by the political establishment. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to convene his political-security cabinet to discuss the IDF's policy in the Gaza Strip.
"Since we left the Philedelphi Route there has been a virtually free flow of terrorism into the Gaza Strip," said Galant. "This is highlighted in the dozens of tunnels that have been built to smuggle weapons."
Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told the committee that terrorists were building an "underground city in Gaza" consisting of dozens, if not hundreds of tunnels. Currently, the IDF's operations in Gaza are largely aimed at uncovering those tunnels, said Galant.
MKs at the committee said that the picture being drawn by Galant and other defense officials is worrisome.
"The IDF is busy with routine security measures in the Gaza Strip and is not dealing with strategic problems," said MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP) after the committee meeting.
Several hours later, at the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women, Halutz met with MKs over the appointment of a female advisor to his staff.
Halutz told the committee that the position had been eliminated for one year for "organizational purposes," but would be re-established next year.