The Islamist terrorist group Hamas, which exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, may initiate an all-out confrontation with Israel in the near future to coax the international community into sending aid to the poverty-stricken enclave, an Israeli security report said on Wednesday.
The Times of Israel reported that based on the annual assessment of the Israeli military intelligence’s research division, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are preparing for a potential full-blown military escalation in Gaza provoked by Iranian-backed Hamas or Tehran’s other proxy, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the second largest terror group in the Strip.
While the report stressed that the most severe long-term threat to Israel emanates from the north – from Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic Republic’s military entrenchment in Syria – the army believes that the more immediate threats may come from Gaza.
The report anticipates that Gaza-based terrorist groups will try to infiltrate Israeli territory to carry out attacks or launch rockets at short-distance Israeli targets. Violent Hamas-led riots have been taking place along the border with Israel since March 30, 2018. Some of the rioters threw makeshift bombs, Molotov cocktails, and rocks at Israeli soldiers, while others burned tires to create a smokescreen to breach the border fence and infiltrate into Israel.
“Gaza, as it is noted in the annual intelligence assessment, is the most volatile region, and there is a risk of terror group’s initiating action [against Israel]. The chief of staff identified an improvement of readiness in that region as a top priority,” the military said. “The identification of targets will be increased — both for retaliatory strikes and to assist in ground forces maneuvering within the Strip,” the army added.
According to the report, Hamas and PIJ have grown frustrated with the lack of response to the violent riots and believe that “only an extreme move” will help the groups achieve their goals. They hope to receive, during a small-scale war and under pressure from the international community, better economic incentives from Israel.
The security assessment further noted that the likelihood of a revolt in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank has also increased as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ rule is nearing its end, ushering in an era of political instability.
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