At a late-night rally Wednesday marking one year since last summer’s war in Gaza, Hamas’s armed wing boasted that they had produced improved, new locally made missiles.
Several hundred people crowded into a central Gaza City square after the traditional fast-breaking meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for a rally by Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Brigades members, their faces covered with black keffiyeh scarves, stood in front of what appeared to be models of two missiles about three to four meters (9 to 13 feet) in length aboard the bed of a military truck.
Fathers held their children on their shoulders and brigades members lifted their weapons in the air as spokesman Abu Obeida gave a speech, his face covered as usual in a red keffiyeh.
Abu Obeida said two new locally made missiles represented a “qualitative leap” forward, but did not provide details.
Israel and Hamas fought a bloody 50-day war starting July 8 and lasting until late August 2014, during which some 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed. Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel during last summer’s conflict, the bulk of those heading to residential areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The sides have mostly kept to a ceasefire since, though sporadic rocket fire, mostly from smaller terror groups chafing under Hamas rule, has continued, and brought Israeli retaliatory strikes, usually against empty Hamas facilities.
Israeli officials say Hamas has carried out repeated test-firings of rockets in recent weeks, and resumed its digging of terror tunnels to the Israeli border.
Also Wednesday, a UN official called for an end to the “inexcusable” Israeli blockade of the territory that has stymied rebuilding.
“The blockade remains in place and its crippling effect on Gaza is undeniable, inexcusable,” Robert Turner, operations director in Gaza for UN relief agency UNRWA, told reporters.
He however referred to a small amount of Gazan goods being allowed through for sale in Israel and the West Bank in recent months as a reason for hope.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent the import of arms and material to make weapons. A panel of senior IDF officers reportedly recommended Tuesday a partial lifting of the blockade, combined with measures to increase freedom of movement and stimulate the coastal area’s dire economic straits.