The Gaza Strip’s so-called “Joint Operations Room,” composed of various Palestinian terror groups, held a military drill Tuesday morning to mark the 18th anniversary of Israel’s 2005 pullout from the territory.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and 10 smaller factions participated in the exercise, in the fourth iteration of a yearly PR ritual that began in 2020.
Photos and video footage published by the Joint Operations Room and Palestinian media outlets showed a barrage of rockets fired toward the Mediterranean Sea, and showcased supposed drone capabilities and urban guerrilla warfare.
In an official statement, Hamas affirmed that the drill conveyed a “message of unity and strength on the internal and external level, and proof of the readiness of the resistance and its development on the field.”
Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said Israel’s “defeat” in the Gaza Strip in 2005 came thanks to the escalation of the “resistance,” and the introduction of new military strategies including the use of mortar shells, Qassam rockets and tunnels.
Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas military wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said in a televised speech on the sidelines of the drill that “the armed resistance is the only way for Palestinians to liberate their historical lands and declare their own independent state,” and added that the armed groups “will force Israel to evacuate the West Bank and all the occupied Palestinian Territories,” according to a report in The New Arab.
The Hamas-affiliated Shehab news outlet reported that on the occasion of the annual drill, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades published on its website an overview of the development of its military arsenal starting from 2005, when it only had primitive Qassam rockets with a range of 20 kilometers (12 miles), to more advanced Qassam projectiles that can reach Tel Aviv, such as those fired during the Protective Edge operation in 2014, and to the latest generation of Ayyash missiles, which Hamas claims have a reach of over 250 kilometers (155 miles) and the capacity to carry warheads of hundreds of kilograms.
During Israel’s May 2021 “Guardian of the Walls” operation, Haaretz reported that the Israel Defense Forces was surprised by the range of a rocket fired from Gaza which struck near Ramon Airport in southern Israel, since it flew over 200 kilometers (125 miles). It had reportedly previously believed rockets in the terror group’s arsenal maxed out at some 160 kilometers (99 miles).
The pullout of the 21 settlements in Gaza and the removal of Israeli forces from inside the Strip was actually carried out in August of 2005, but September 11 was the day when the last Israeli flag was lowered in the IDF’s Gaza Strip divisional headquarters, and therefore Gaza factions celebrate September 12 as the first day without Israeli presence in the Strip.
Hamas has ruled the coastal enclave since 2007, when it expelled its rival Fatah following a bloody struggle for control of the territory. Israel has fought several large campaigns against terror groups in the Strip since Hamas took control of the area, along with dozens of smaller skirmishes.
Emmanuel Fabian and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.