In its latest effort to prepare for its next war against Israel, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has started to surveil Israeli communities and track IDF movements near the Gaza Strip with drones and camera-equipped kites, Ynet reported  Thursday.
The IDF, which has noticed that this practice is increasing, sends out soldiers to the border every time Hamas operatives arrive in pickup trucks with their new surveillance tools. The army either shoots the kites down or fires warning shots at the trucks. “The IDF sees these kites as yet another way that Hamas is preparing for the next round of fighting against Israel,” Ynet wrote.
The army believes that if another war breaks out, Hamas will attempt to infiltrate Israel through tunnels or the sea in order to capture or kill civilians in towns near the Gaza border, a tactic meant to damage Israeli morale. The intelligence gathered with these kites and drones could help the terrorist group with that objective.
In addition to spying on Israel, Hamas is “intensely training their marine Special Forces units, digging tunnels with greater frequency, and improving their rocket arsenal. They are also carrying out more long-range rocket tests into the sea,” Ynet added.
Hamas is also continuing to build outposts along Gaza’s border with Israel, some just several hundred feet away from IDF outposts. Hamas is said to have equipped these lookout points with hi-tech optical systems.
Despite the threat from Hamas, the IDF sees two possible benefits from the terrorist group’s deployment near the border. The first is that with so many Hamas personnel nearby, it will become harder for Palestinian civilians to illegally enter Israel. Also, as Hamas’ armed wing becomes more institutionalized, the IDF can form a better understanding of how it operates.
Hamas spends  an estimated $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnels into Israel that can be used in future terrorist attacks. An Israeli official estimated  in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters  earlier this year that the tunnels were a sign that Hamas is preparing for another war against Israel. “They definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels,” he said.
Israel began constructing a $530 million underground barrier  along its border with Gaza in September to prevent more Hamas tunnels from breaching Israeli territory. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot described the barrier as “the largest project” ever undertaken in Israel’s military history.
[Photo: Mary Madigan / Flickr ]