The reported death of a Hamas rocket engineer in a work accident on Monday is the latest indication that the Palestinian terrorist group is readying for another round of violence against Israel, Palestinian affairs correspondent Yoni Ben Menachem wrote in an analysis for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Mohammad Walid al-Koka, a Tunisian engineer working for Hamas’ military wing, was reportedly killed by an explosion while manufacturing a new missile. Signs carried during his funeral procession stated that he died while “preparing something for the enemy,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Al-Koka’s activities are yet another reminder that “Hamas has never for a moment given up its strategy of destroying Israel,” Ben Menachem wrote, noting that the “quiet on the Gaza border with Israel is temporary and deceptive.”
In preparation for the next round of fighting, Hamas is “constantly improving its capabilities and building its military preparedness,” Ben Menachem noted. “It aims to inflict painful strategic blows on Israel in various ways: short- and long-range rocket fire, attack tunnels, booby-trapped drones, naval commando forces infiltrated into Israeli territory, and even cyber warfare and hacking into IDF soldiers’ computers and telephones.”
According to the IDF, Hamas has fully rebuilt the military infrastructure that Israel destroyed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, including its tunnel network and rocket arsenal. While the terrorist group does not currently seem interested in sparking a military confrontation with Israel in Gaza, which is still recovering from the last major conflict, there are a number of factors that could push Hamas to attack.
Ben Menachem observed that recent protests against Hamas over its role in local electricity shortages could lead it to attack Israel in order “to divert gazes from its responsibility for Gaza’s dire situation.”
Tensions are also flaring between the Iran-backed and Qatar/Turkey-backed factions within Hamas, which could lead “to a violent eruption between the camps and an escalation against Israel,” he added.
The IDF said in December of last year that Hamas is intensifying efforts to surveil Israeli communities by the Gaza border, which the military believes will be targeted for kidnapping attacks in the event of a future conflict.
Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. 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 in May of last 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.
During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the IDF discovered and destroyed at least 34 tunnels in Gaza. Hamas killed several Israeli soldiers through its use of cross-border tunnels, including five soldiers in Israeli territory near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The IDF explained at the time that Hamas intended to use the tunnels “to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.”
Israel began constructing a $530 million underground barrier along its border with Gaza in September to prevent more Hamas tunnels from breaching Israeli territory. IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot described the barrier as “the largest project” ever undertaken in Israel’s military history.
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