Hamas boosts navy capabilities amid preparations for Palestinian elections

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As Hamas and Fatah proceed to maintain talks on the upcoming Palestinian common elections, Israeli statements and reviews have circulated about Hamas’ rising navy capabilities. Meanwhile, Israel launched airstrikes towards navy targets within the Gaza Strip within the early hours of March 24, in response to a rocket fired from the enclave towards the town of Beersheba. No accidents have been reported.

The Israeli reviews on Hamas’ navy capabilities have coincided with the motion’s preparations to run within the elections in just a few months and its ongoing political talks with Fatah. This has raised questions on any potential contradictions between the navy and political paths Hamas has opted for lately.

An in depth affiliate of President Mahmoud Abbas instructed Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity, “The national dialogues between Fatah and Hamas are currently focused on the general elections. The talks on problematic issues, such as the arms [used] and attacks against Israel, were postponed to a later time. Such a positive atmosphere in the Palestinian arena requires that Hamas focuses on unifying the domestic front, away from any regional ties with countries that seek political influence in the Palestinian territories, even if through military support.”

On March 17, Haaretz’s correspondent Amos Harel quoted Israeli sources as saying, “A gradual military progress has been observed in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military arm, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, with Iran’s support, boosted its production capacity for rockets and drones. It also conducts frequent test firings toward the Mediterranean and increases rocket firing experiments in the Mediterranean every now and then.”

The sources added, “The Israeli revelation that Hamas’ capabilities have increased come as part of talks about the so-called new Iranian model that Tehran has pursued in the armament of the groups it supports including Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This model is based on building facilities for the manufacturing of weaponry, in parallel with the smuggling channels that the Israeli army targets every now and then.”

Mahmoud Mardawi, a Hamas chief and former navy commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, instructed Al-Monitor, “Hamas continuously gains experience and regularly works to increase its manufacturing capabilities in the ground, naval and air combat fields. It receives aid from Iran and develops its own military capabilities, digging underground [tunnels], resorting to the sea and other means for arms smuggling, which I decline to reveal for security reasons. Israel is well aware that Hamas has made military preparations for the next confrontation, with the locally produced and smuggled military capabilities.” 

He added, “[The fact] that Hamas is regularly receiving military aid from Iran and developing its own warfare capabilities does not contradict the ongoing dialogue with Fatah. But there cannot be a national consensus neither on giving up the resistance nor on the peace and war decision. There will not be an internal unity neither at the expense of the resistance nor its weapons arsenal.”

On March 18, head of the Israeli military Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi instructed Israel’s Channel 12 that Israel has repeatedly carried out heavy strikes towards Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip, together with the tunnels, rocket launchers and factories; struck its naval forces, gliders and drones; and inflicted harm to its naval ships. Its airstrikes have targeted on the rockets manufacturing websites, along with the tunnel passages and underground bunkers the place Hamas’ cadres are stationed in the guts of Gaza.

Rami Abu Zubaydah, a navy knowledgeable who writes for Al Jazeera, instructed Al-Monitor, “Hamas is constantly working to obtain military and armament supplies, and is using every opportunity to ensure an ongoing flow of weapons to [Gaza] by sea and land. That is although it had begun in the past years to rely heavily on itself. The majority of its weapons, equipment and rockets are self-made weaponry, based on a deliberate strategy to build and develop its military strength, in light of the poor supply from abroad.”

He famous, “Hamas continues to rely on Iran’s capabilities and expertise, as the movement sends its experts and soldiers to receive training in Iran, although the Iranian smuggling operations are exposable and subject to Israeli attacks.”

A report by Israel’s Walla information web site mentioned March 20 that al-Qassam Brigades has turned from unorganized divisions and battalions to a quasi-regular military with a transparent hierarchy. It additionally highlighted Iran’s monetary assist and operational navy growth, together with the smuggling of large weapons into Gaza, and Hamas’ efforts to fabricate new weapons — be they drones or longer vary missiles. That would make the following navy confrontation within the air, at sea and on the bottom totally different from the previous ones and puzzling, the report added. 

Youssef al-Sharqawi, a Palestinian navy knowledgeable and navy chief within the PLO, instructed Al-Monitor, “Iran’s ongoing support for Hamas points at its interest in boosting military support for Gaza due to its proximity to Israel and ability to inflict harm [on Israel] in case the latter strikes Iran. Although the far distance separating Iran and Gaza prevents [the latter] from receiving the largest military supply, Israel and Egypt pursue any combat equipment entering Gaza by land and sea.”

He added, “It is inaccurate to say that Hamas’ continued access to Iranian military support would impact the ongoing Fatah-Hamas national dialogue. Fatah is going through an intrinsic crisis because it recognized Israel as legitimate in the 1993 Oslo Accord and no longer speaks of the armed resistance. Hence, a consensus between the two movements will only be achieved in case of a security coordination between Hamas and Israel. And that is far-fetched.”

Hamas often expresses gratitude for the navy assist supplied by Iran since such assist has allowed the motion to outlive the Israeli navy operations prior to now years. In parallel, Hamas constructed its personal navy capabilities and fight instruments, with out, nonetheless, permitting such a progress to have an effect on the nationwide dialogue with Fatah, which is lower than glad concerning the Hamas-Iran relations.