Senior IDF Officer: Hamas Wants to Avoid Clash Now, While Preparing for Future War

Militant group is building up its rocket stockpile, training naval commandos, and increasing special forces, officer says, but notes that Hamas has yet to fully recuperate from 2014 conflict.

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A Palestinian fighter from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, stands inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Hamas wants to complete its preparations for a possible war with Israel, but without triggering an escalation right now, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer in the Southern Command told reporters.

The senior officer said Thursday that Hamas is manufacturing and developing more rockets, increasing the number of naval commandos and strengthening its special forces, some of whose 5,000 fighters have been trained to invade Israeli territory.

He said Hamas wanted to complete its preparations for a possible war but does not seek escalation at this time, and has not reached the quantitative levels it had before Operation Protective Edge.

He noted that Hamas had established a force that stopped attacks and rocket fire on Israeli territory and arrested perpetrators. On the other hand, Hamas was trying to implement attacks in the West Bank, the officer said.

Eye-witnesses told the Palestinian news agency Maan that four Israeli bulldozers entered Palestinian territory on Thursday near Rafah in Gaza and flattened the ground while drones patrolled overhead.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank on Thursday, a Palestinian tried to attack an IDF soldier with an ax near the Al-Arub refugee camp between Bethlehem and Hebron. The solider was not injured, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said. The Palestinian, 53-year-old Ibrahim Baradiya, from the town of Tzurif north of Hebron, was shot dead by soldiers at the scene. On Friday, his body was given over to Palestinian authorities as a result of a "mistake" by the Israeli army.