Hamas’s leader in Gaza boasted that his group was “many times stronger” than the last time it fought Israel, in a speech marking the seventh anniversary of a previous war with the Israeli military.
Appearing at a celebration organized by the police force of the Strip on Sunday, Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of the group in Gaza, praised Hamas’s performance in Operation Cast Lead, a three-week war fought with Israel in 2008-9.
Haniyeh spent much of his speech touting the terror group’s strength, saying that they were “many times stronger” since the last conflict with Israel in 2014, and the next time Israel decides to invade Gaza, it will pay “an even bigger price.”
He also told the crowd that “in 2016, Hamas in the West Bank will be just as powerful as in Gaza.”
Hamas-led fighters in Gaza have fought three wars against Israel since 2008, including two — in 2008 and 2014 — that involved ground invasions by Israeli troops.
Israeli military officials said after 2014’s Operation Protective Edge that the terror group was severely weakened by the country’s military efforts, which involved the destruction of rocket-firing infrastructure and a network of attack tunnels.
However, officials have since warned that the organization has regrouped and attempted to rebuild much of its military infrastructure despite Israeli efforts to block the import of concrete and other materials into the enclave.
Speaking about the recent wave of violence rocking Jerusalem and the West Bank, Haniyeh praised those carrying out attacks and described how they had succeeded in shaking Israeli’s sense of security.
“This is an intifada for liberation and is not seeking to move forward negotiations,” Haniyeh said.
Also on Sunday, the terror group posted a celebratory video on their website along with a lengthy statement on their successes in the 2008 conflict.
The video consists of images and footage from Operation Cast Lead with text extolling the steadfastness of the Gaza Strip and Israelis failures, including their inability to stop rocket fire or get back captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was held for five years by Hamas in Gaza until 2011 when he was released in exchange for 1,027 prisoners detained by Israel.