The military capabilities of Hamas in Gaza have reportedly been restored to their strength pre-2014, when the Islamist terror group fought a war with Israel that depleted much of its arsenal and battered much of its military infrastructure.
Senior military and defense officials said Hamas’s network of cross-border tunnels and its missile arsenal have been fully restored, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported.
The report caps two years in which Hamas, the de facto ruling power in Gaza, sought to rebuild its military capabilities, including thousands of missiles, small arms, and a network of tunnels, many of which crossed into Israel.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008. Gaza is subject to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade in an effort to prevent Hamas, which avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, from importing weaponry and restoring its military infrastructure.
During the 2014 war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, cross-border tunnels were a key weapon for Hamas, allowing its fighters to infiltrate Israeli territory and launch attacks against Israeli soldiers.
Israel destroyed about a third of its tunnels in the 2014 fighting.
According to the report on Tuesday, much of Hamas’s arsenal was restored using makeshift materials already found in the Strip, but Israeli officials fear detente between Hamas and Egypt could lead to the opening of the Rafah border crossing and the possible import of materials that can build up its capabilities further.
Hamas on Tuesday displayed its military hardware at a memorial rally held in honor of a Hamas drone expert assassinated in Tunisia last month.
The spokesman of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, told fighters at the rally that the upcoming release of an Israeli government report on the alleged mishandling of the 2014 conflict proved that Hamas won the war.
“This proves the the great loss and failure of the Zionist enemy,” Abu Ubaida said, according to Channel 2.
“The report proves that Hamas won protective edge,” he said. “In the near future, there will be more evidence of the extent of the failure.”
Abu Ubaida also said that Israel would suffer consequences for the assassination of key Hamas weapons builder Mohamed Zouari, a 49-year-old Tunisian engineer and drone expert, who was killed at the wheel of his car outside his house in Tunisia in December 2016. Israel has made no official comment on Zouari’s death.
“The Zionist enemy will pay the price for the assassination, the score is still open.”
Earlier this week, a Knesset subcommittee unanimously approved releasing to the public parts of a biting comptroller’s report into how the security cabinet of top-level ministers handled itself during the 2014 war.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira will make the final decision on when the document will be released, though he is expected to make it available to the public in the next two weeks.
When it is eventually released, the document will give Israelis a rare look at the discussions of one of the most powerful and secretive state institutions, the powerful ten-member committee of ministers that oversees national security and foreign policy.
The report of the ministers’ handling of the 2014 conflict is said to show bitter infighting among members of the security cabinet, especially between then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and then-economy minister Naftali Bennett.
Coalition officials, particularly those close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fought against releasing the report.
The report finds that despite Netanyahu’s claims to the contrary, he and Ya’alon did not properly inform the security cabinet of the extent of the threat emanating from Hamas’s cross-border tunnels, Channel 2 reported in November.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.