Israel on the next war with Hamas: Not 'whether' but when'
Intelligence officials in Israel are saying that another war with Hamas is no longer a matter of if, but when. Sources say that having Hamas embroiled in another war with Israel will be used by Iran to draw attention away from Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Iran has been busy re-supplying Hamas with weaponry, including rockets, artillery shells, and small arms ammunition, since Hamas last confronted Israel.
Since that conflict ended in January of 2009, Hamas has also acquired the Iranian-origin Fajr-3 missiles. The Fajr-3 is capable of reaching Tel Aviv, according to Israeli sources.
Israeli intelligence believes that Hamas feels it must be able to bombard a major Israeli city in order to have an affect on public opinion in Israel.
Israeli military sources said the intelligence community has determined that Hamas was intensifying military preparations for another war with Israel.
They said Hamas has not only replenished its missile and rocket arsenal, but also acquired weapons that could strike major Israeli cities and critical facilities.
"The security leadership does not ask whether there will be an additional military clash with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, rather when," Israeli military analyst Alex Fishman said.
Fishman, regarded as close to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said Hamas and Israel could come to blows as early as December 2009, Middle East Newsline reported. He said Hamas could spark a war to stop Palestinian Authority elections, scheduled for January 2010, as well as prevent international sanctions on Iran. Iran has been deemed the leading ally of Hamas.
The sources said Hamas has acquired dozens of rockets with a range of at least 60 kilometers since the war with Israel in January 2009. They said the rockets were Iranian-origin Fajr-3s, the warheads of which were reduced in an effort to extend the weapons' range of 43 kilometers.
"Hamas has implemented one of its main lessons from Operation Cast Lead [war with Israel]: The leaders of the organization concluded that as long as they do not have rockets that can threaten Tel Aviv, they have no tangible card to influence Israeli public opinion and genuinely deter the government and the Israel Defense Forces," Fishman wrote in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on Nov. 4.
The sources said Hamas has become completely dependent on Iran and Syria in wake of the war with Israel. They said Iran wants to use Hamas to divert international attention from Teheran's controversial nuclear program.
"Hamas emerged from Operation Cast Lead battered but not beaten, and is now implementing lessons from the fighting in order to be better prepared for the next operation," Yaakov Amidror, a former senior Israeli intelligence commander, said.
Israel has asserted that Hamas tested a rocket with a range of 60 kilometers on Oct. 29 of this year.
Hamas has refused to confirm the report, but has warned Israel of punishing attacks.