Hamas, exploiting truce, 'dramatically increases military training in Gaza'

Schalit negotiations still frozen as Hamas talks in Cairo fail.

Hamas has dramatically increased its training regime in the Gaza Strip since the cease-fire with Israel went into effect there in June, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. According to latest intelligence information obtained by IDF Military Intelligence, Hamas is using the truce to train its forces openly, and not in secret as it formerly did for fear of Israeli air strikes. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset earlier this week that Hamas was continuing to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza and had obtained "new capabilities." "Hamas doesn't fear Israel and understands that it needs to take advantage of the quiet right now to train its forces ahead of a possible war in the future," a defense official said. Gazans have also been holding an unprecedented number of weddings. According to numbers presented during a security assessment convened by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i on Thursday evening there have been more than 200 weddings in Beit Lahiya alone in the past few days. During the meeting, Vilna'i ordered Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, to meet with the Egyptians next week to discuss another possible increase in the quantity of goods and raw materials transferred by Israel to Gaza. The increase, officials said, would only be approved if progress was made in the negotiations for the release of kidnapped St.-Sg. Gilad Schalit. The talks between a Hamas delegation and Egyptian officials in Cairo this week did not succeed and the negotiations are still at a standstill, the officials said. Also on Thursday, the IDF put on hold a plan to consolidate the crossings into the Gaza Strip and to distance the border facilities from the border to make it harder for terrorists to attack, and has instead begun renovating the Kerem Shalom crossing to facilitate the increase in merchandise being allowed into the Strip under the cease-fire. There are currently five crossings straddling the Israeli-Gaza border - Karni, Erez, Kerem Shalom, Sufa and the Nahal Oz fuel depot. Work on the plan to consolidate the crossings and to move them began shortly after April's car bomb attack against the Kerem Shalom crossing in which 11 soldiers were wounded. According to the plan, some of the crossings would be canceled and others moved slightly east into Israel to create a buffer zone. The project would have entailed moving the crossings several kilometers deeper at a cost of several hundred million shekels.