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Hamas stages military exercises to test Gaza readiness

Drills involving 1,000 police, emergency service personnel aren’t ‘announcement of war,’ official in the Strip says

Hamas fighters take part in an anti-Israel rally in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, February 26, 2016. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Hamas fighters take part in an anti-Israel rally in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, February 26, 2016. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas staged major military exercises Tuesday to test its readiness in the event of another Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which has been ravaged by three wars since 2008.

The exercises involving 1,000 police and emergency services personnel were not meant to be seen as an “announcement of war,” said a spokesman for the Islamist movement’s interior ministry.

For the duration of the exercises, however, a state of emergency was observed in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, bordering Israel in the north, and Jabaliya farther to the south.

The media was barred from approaching the area, but loud explosions could be heard from a distance, with hospitals and schools placed on alert.

Israel and Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip have fought three wars since 2008, including a devastating 50-day conflict in 2014.

The Palestinian enclave remains under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks the destruction of Israel. The Israeli security blockade aims to prevent Hamas importing weaponry.

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