Observers are expressing deepening concerns regarding efforts by Palestinian groups to destabilize Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, amid months of foiled attempts by the Iran-backed faction to launch spectacular terror attacks that would bolster its precipitously sliding domestic and regional stature. As many as eight rockets were fired overnight from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli city of Ashkelon, with five being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The barrage followed another one from earlier this week, when two rockets were fired after the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Upwards of twenty rockets have been fired at Israel this year, as compared with roughly forty in all of 2013, and Hamas is known to be qualitatively and quantatively bolstering its missile arsenal. Meanwhile reports are emerging that the group is engaging in, and boosting its capacity for, suicide bombings and similar terror operations. David Barnett, a Palestinian affairs expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Wednesday outlined a series of recent Hamas terror plots uncovered by Israeli authorities operating in the West Bank.
Over the past year, Hamas terror activities, in particular abduction attempts, have been on the rise in the West Bank. In March, the Shin Bet charged that Hamas’ Interior Minister Fathi Hammad has been at the forefront of the terror group’s efforts to carry out attacks in the West Bank, including kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks. More recently, Israeli officials have cited the role of Turkey-based Hamas operative Saleh Aruri. A founder of Hamas’ Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades in the West Bank, Aruri is currently believed to be in charge of coordinating Hamas’ efforts in the area, Haaretz reported on Dec. 21.
The Times of Israel also reported Wednesday that the second year of Gaza’s so-called “Pioneers of Liberation” program, which involves training high school-age students to engage in combat and emulate “suicide martyrs,” had just concluded.
“Beware this generation,” Haniyeh said, addressing Israel. “This is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and the suicide operations.” The Hamas prime minister added that female trainers are also on staff “to oversee the training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide operatives.”
Approximately 18,000 teenagers have reportedly been through the paramilitary programs, with boys and girls – per Hamas’s broader educational policies – taught separately.
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