Gaza’s drill – preparation for war or a PR stunt?

It is a rare sight; the different factions deciding in an “act of unity” to join hands in the operation.

Members of Palestinian militant groups take part in their first-ever joint exercise, in Gaza City December 29, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Members of Palestinian militant groups take part in their first-ever joint exercise, in Gaza City December 29, 2020
After a weeks-long public relations build-up that included articles, banners, and propaganda videos, the Gaza Strip’s terrorist factions on Tuesday launched a military exercise that, unsurprisingly, attracted the attention of Israel’s media.
It is rare when Gaza’s different factions, which include Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other groups, who usually train separately, decided in an “act of unity” to join together for the operation, which was named “a-Rukn a-Shadid,” which means “the strong foundation” (an expression taken from the Qur’an).
This has come in the wake of the establishment of a joint operations room of Gaza’s different factions – who until now, have each issued statements concerning their own actions and intentions. The drill now shows that there is proper cooperation between them.
It is believed that this exercise – that was meant to last three days but was shortened to one day, and then to half a day – is a response of sorts to the major drills the IDF has held in recent months.
Among them, was “Lethal Arrow,” a large-scale exercise held within the IDF’s Northern Command which simulated a war with Hezbollah. It was considered a multi-day General Staff drill and involved the participation of thousands of troops from various branches of the military including the air force, navy, and ground forces, as well as from military intelligence and the IDF’s technological, logistics, and cyber defense directorates.
Another drill was held within Southern Command and the Gaza Division that tested the readiness of all military branches for a possible confrontation with Hamas.
Some IDF officers regard Tuesday’s drill in Gaza as an attempt to create an equation of sorts, but it’s not something that poses an immediate threat to Israel. Instead, it is believed that Hamas chose the propaganda route and invited journalists from the Arab world and the international community to see the various fire power displays that included the launch of long-range missiles into the sea and a raid by special naval forces.
It also invested heavily in publicizing the drill ahead of time and while it took place.
Hamas doesn’t really need to hold such large-scale media-focused events to improve its military power. The military wing of the organization carries out drills on a daily basis and regardless, would not want to necessarily reveal its true capabilities to Israel and the world.
This is the reason why this colorful event – which attracted media attention with visual images – is believed to be more of a PR stunt than an actual drill to test and improve the cooperation between the Gaza Strip’s different factions.