Hamas' military wing carried out a long-range rocket test overnight Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, immediately ahead of Israel's declared July 1 target to begin annexing portions of the West Bank.
Speaking with Haaretz by phone, a Hamas source linked the timing of the test to the announcement by Hamas' military wing last week, in which the organization said that any unilateral annexation by Israel would be construed as a declaration of war by the organization.
According to the source, the rocket test is a clear message to Israel that "it will not be business as usual if annexation is enacted."
Residents reported hearing at least 25 launches beginning in the late night hours and continuing until the morning. "We heard very loud sounds, this is the first time we heard sounds like that," one Gaza resident said, who surmised that these are rockets that have been developed in recent years and are a technological innovation for the organization. A political source estimated that the new rockets have a range of over 100 km.
Meanwhile, Hamas and the other factions in the Strip organized demonstrations in Gaza City on Wednesday against the proposed annexation plan. The protesters emphasized the fact that annexation would have far-reaching implications for Palestinians beyond the leadership in Ramallah.
Hamas Spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said at the protest that the event is proof that the Palestinians are united against the Trump peace plan, and that the Palestinians must have a united policy against annexation.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab called upon Palestinians to resist in every place with an Israeli presence. The Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, also spoke at the protest and called "to burn the West Bank" in response to Israel's declared intention to annex.
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Despite these statements, Hamas was careful to keep the protests within Gaza City and avoided protesting near the border fence with Israel. Despite the threats, Hamas is wary of taking actions that may lead to a violent escalation.
Last week, thousands of Palestinians protesting against annexation in Jericho were joined by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, Arab and other foreign diplomats, including the ambassadors of the European Union, China, Russia and Jordan.
The UN special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said at the protest that "The annexation plan violates international law and destroys the dream of a Palestinian state," and urged the international community to save the peace process and begin negotiations for a Palestinian state.