Since last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has made great efforts to rebuild its military capacities in preparation for the next round of violence with Israel, according to the head of Israel’s internal secret service.
At a briefing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen said Hamas has been working to reestablish its offensive tunnels, develop and produce new rockets, and increase training for its naval and ground forces. Hamas has also been trying to acquire funding from Iran, he added, in light of the economic hardships brought on by the 50-day conflict.
At this time, he said, Hamas has little interest in launching a war against Israel and, while it could wage a significant military campaign, it would be limited in its efficacy
Hamas was also finding itself in strategic distress in Gaza and its status as the sovereign power in the Palestinian enclave has been eroded, Cohen asserted.
Most of the funds earmarked for the rehabilitation of Gaza post-war have not come through, partially on account of the feud between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’s refusal t allow PA forces to man the crossings into the Gaza Strip, according to Cohen.
Israel, he said, was the central element urging and advancing the re-building of Gaza after the war.
Earlier this week, Hamas said it built a “new tunnel” that crosses into Israeli territory. The attack tunnel is said to be 3.5 kilometers long and will be used in the “next round” of violence with Israel, Hamas told an Iranian TV channel.
Israel destroyed at least two dozen tunnels used by Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups during the war. Some were used to devastating effect to ambush and kill IDF soldiers in the course of the war.
In the West Bank, the Shin Bet chief said, the ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is what has enabled the PA to endure the constant Hamas activity in the territory.
Regarding the recent uptick in violent attacks, Cohen noted that there has been a steady rise in what he termed folk terror and “lone wolf” attacks. Since 2012 there has been a 50 percent rise each year, from 683 attacks in 2012 to 1,834 in 2014, he revealed.
Over the past year, 130 organized terror plots were foiled, he said, with an additional 60 plots over the course of the first half of 2015.
More recently, the IDF was on particularly high alert due to Ramadan, which usually ushers in a spike in violent incidents.
On Monday night, a man was killed after a car he was traveling in with three friends was shot up by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank.
Earlier that day, a female IDF soldier was stabbed at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Her female attacker was detained and questioned at the site of the attack.
On Friday a Palestinian assailant was shot and killed by IDF soldiers after he opened fire on Israeli troops at a checkpoint in the West Bank. No soldiers were injured in the attack.
Last Sunday a Palestinian man stabbed and seriously injured an Israeli Border Police officer outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. The assailant was shot and captured.
On June 19, a 25-year-old Israeli man, Danny Gonen, died after being shot near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem.