Hamas Seeking to Fight Israel From Lebanon

Islamist group claims it already fired rockets into Israel from Lebanon during 2014 Gaza war; calls for military units to operate from Syrian, Lebanese refugee camps.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Smoke trailing rockets fired from Gaza at Israel in July 2014.
Smoke trailing rockets fired from Gaza at Israel in July 2014.Credit: Reuters
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Hamas says it plans to form military units to operate in southern Lebanon, and according to the organization’s statements in recent weeks it already fired rockets from Lebanon into Israel, during last summer’s war.

Masked Palestinian militants in Gaza prepare to fire rockets into Israel in 2008.Credit: AP

The Lebanese daily Al-Hayat reported that during a Hamas political rally on February 4 in Gaza, senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Zahar called on the authorities in Syria and Lebanon to allow the group to establish military units subservient to its military wing in Palestinian refugee camps in those countries. These units, according to Zahar, “will conduct the resistance (also) from northern Palestine and take part with us in liberating it.”

A report by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, says that Hamas has never before issued a statement like this by a senior official signaling the group’s intention to open another front against Israel from Syria and Lebanon. According to MEMRI, such a decision could reflect understanding on the part of senior Hamas officials, in light of last summer’s war with Gaza, that opening another front could allow Hamas to exert considerable pressure on Israel in a future military conflict.

Following Zahar’s statements, an article was published on the Internet site of Al-Aqsa TV, a Palestinian station identified with Hamas, by the station’s news chief, Imad Zaqut, explaining that Zahar’s statements show that Hamas wants future conflict with Israel to be comprehensive, one in which Israel would be attacked from the north as well.

A number of rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip hit the greater Tel Aviv area and others landed at points to the north and shooting from Lebanon during fighting in Gaza will allow Hamas to claim that it threatens the entire country, as Hezbollah can already do at present, Zaqut said.

Zaqut also revealed in the article for the first time that a number of rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon during the Gaza war were launched by organizations operated by Hamas’ military wing. The rocket fire, Zaqut wrote, was intended “to confuse the Zionist enemy’s calculations. It seems that Hamas thinks and is planning for any future war to be all-out, that is, it will include a large part of the land of Palestine. The leadership began to prepare for this immediately after the battle in Gaza and possibly during it. In this context, ties were renewed between Hamas and Hezbollah I believe that Zahar’s statements were made in coordination with the highest levels of Hezbollah,” Zaqut wrote.

Ties between Hezbollah and Hamas deteriorated more than two years ago in the context of Hamas’ opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its brutal actions against Sunni organizations during the civil war in Syria, assisted by Hezbollah. However, since the end of the war in Gaza, new attempts have been made to mend fences between senior Hamas and Hezbollah officials and Iran.

In his article, Zaqut mentions a letter sent last month by the head of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in which Deif proposes that Hamas and Hezbollah to coordinate “the fire of resistance” against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon.

Deif has not been seen in public since Israel tried to assassinate him in late August near the end of the war; however, this has led to a growing realization that he survived the assassination attempt.

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