Gaza Militants Fire Rockets Into the Sea in First Joint Exercise

The drill, which Israeli media says was funded by Iran, aims to test Gaza factions' preparedness for any future confrontation with Israel

Jack Khoury
Reuters
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People watch as rockets are fired during a military drill by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions near Gaza City on December 29, 2020.
People watch as rockets are fired during a military drill by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions near Gaza City on December 29, 2020. Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP
Jack Khoury
Reuters

An array of Palestinian militant groups launched rockets into the Mediterranean Sea off the Gaza Strip on Tuesday at the start of what they called their first-ever joint exercise, which Israeli media described as a show of force organised by Iran.

Gaza is run by Hamas and also home to other militant groups, including Islamic Jihad. The exercise was announced on behalf of a joint command set up by the groups in 2018, and aims to recreate different scenarios and test their preparedness for any future confrontation with Israel.

Eight rockets streaked through a cloudless sky in Gaza towards the Mediterranean after Abu Hamza, spokesman for Islamic Jihad, delivered a speech launching the drill.

The drill comes one day after sirens sounded in the southern Israeli town of Kerem Shalom, following a single rocket launch from Gaza that failed to cross into Israel.  

Israeli media said the drill was organised by the militants' sponsors in Tehran to demonstrate risks Israel could face if Iran comes under U.S. or Israeli attack in the waning days of the Trump administration.

On the eve of the exercise, a large portrait of Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed last January in a U.S. attack in Iraq, was erected along Gaza's main coastal road.

Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen since the November 27 assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran has blamed Israel for his death; Israel has neither confirmed nor denied a role.

Tuesday's Gaza missile display did not trigger any sirens in Israel, whose drones keep a close eye on Gaza and which employ a sophisticated missile interception system.

The exercise included fighters from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and smaller armed groups.

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