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Hamas Mounts Large-Scale Military Exercise, Demonstrating Its Complete Control Over Gaza

In a further demonstration that it exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, Hamas, the terrorist organization that governs there, says it mobilized 30,000 of its members for military drills on Sunday and Monday, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

The members of  Hamas’s Izaddin al Qassam Brigades participated in the exercises using live ammunition and firing rockets and missiles.

The exercise was described by the terrorist group as “defensive,” in an apparent attempt to assure Israel that it was not about to attack and prevent any Israeli retaliation. When a number of explosions set off alarms in southern Israel, Hamas “was quick on Sunday night to clarify” that the explosions were part of its drills and not rocket attacks against Israel as had been feared.

The Times reported that Gaza-based political commentators said that the Hamas drills were in part a response to the recent joint United States-Israel Juniper Cobra military exercises. Hamas, according to these commentators, wanted “to send a message to both Israel and the U.S. that it was prepared for any military attack on the Gaza Strip,” according to the Times.

Hamas has been boasting that the exercise shows that its fighters make up the strongest and best equipped Palestinian fighting force.

The exercise also comes at a time of increased tension with the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by the rival Fatah party. Both the PA and Fatah are led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Despite a power sharing agreement arrived at late last year that would have given the PA security control over Gaza, Hamas has refused to cede control to its rival.

“By deploying tens of thousands of heavily armed and highly motivated Qassam militiamen through the Gaza Strip,” the Times reported, “Hamas sought to signal to Abbas that its security forces and militiamen are in full control and prepared to thwart any attempt to undermine its rule.”

In addition, the exercise is said to be a signal from Gaza to the enclaves residents that “Hamas remains capable of defending them against any new Israeli ‘aggression.'” This comes at a time of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza resulting from sanctions in Gaza by the PA.

[Photo: الساعة الأخيرة│غزة .. رسائل المناورات / YouTube]