Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure was destroyed in West Bank cities by the IDF following Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and subsequent counter-terrorism efforts but the organization is seeking to gradually regroup in the area.
Its efforts are being thwarted successfully by the IDF and the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], which maintain a tight grip on intelligence and security in the area.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas is continuing to convert its terrorist cells into an organized military entity, said Maj. Guy Aviad, an expert on Hamas and head of the instruction department at the IDF General Staff’s History Department.
“Hamas is building… regional brigades,” Aviad said. The terror regime is also exploiting breaks in between rounds of fighting to better hide its rockets in underground bunkers, continued Aviad, who published a book with the Defense Ministry titled The Hamas Lexicon.
Aviad, who is due to release an updated edition of his book, noted that Iran decreased its financial support for Hamas, and its arms shipments, following Hamas’s support for Sunni Syrian rebels. As a result, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Iran’s closest proxy in the Strip, is receiving more Iranian cash and arms than Hamas, he added.
Aviad said Iran first began sponsoring Hamas when 415 of its members were exiled to Lebanon in 1992, and began receiving training from Hezbollah. Between 2004 and 2011, Iran was Hamas’s main sponsor, Aviad added, offering Hamas joint training courses with Hezbollah, large-scale arms shipments and generous financial backing.
Meanwhile, last week, OC Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, held a surprise drill for the Binyamin Regional Brigade in the West Bank, held after a marked increase was noted in the number of violent disturbances in the area.
Alon called on his forces to increase awareness at all levels, from commanders to the individual soldiers in light of the rise in violent incidents.
In the drill, Artillery Corps soldiers from the Reshef Battalion had to deal with rioting, as well as with the scenario of ’gunmen’ planted within the mobs and firing on soldiers. The Artillery Corps soldiers were backed by Border Police and civilian police units.
“Cooperation is the key word. We joined forces with the police, Border Police, IDF observation posts, and others,” said Col. Yossi Pinto, commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade.
The Reshef Battalion had only recently returned to the West Bank from the Gaza border, after taking part in Operation Pillar of Defense. It fired more than 250 shells at terror targets in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas.