ANALYSIS: Quiet on the Southern Front as Hamas Rebuilds

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers during a patrol at the Anzac Memorial just outside the central Gaza strip on April 13, 2016 in Southern Israel. (Corinna Kern/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers during a patrol at the Anzac Memorial just outside the central Gaza strip on April 13, 2016 in Southern Israel. (Corinna Kern/Flash90)

The southern border area is stirring, but the IDF continues to characterize the situation as “static,” showing no significant change.

“We are exactly at the same level of alert as we were a week ago, and a month ago. And we haven’t changed any of the guidelines for the population near the Gaza border. That is because Hamas remains deterred, and the chances of anything happening are not significant,” a senior IDF official said.

Palestinian news sources said on Thursday that the IDF was using heavy machinery within the Gaza Strip. Five D-9 tractors were said to be operating about 50 yards deep in Gaza.

Residents in Israeli border towns said they heard shooting from the border area late Thursday afternoon, which was followed by a code red siren. However, military authorities later announced that it was a false alarm.

Meanwhile, the IDF isn’t taking any chances, and continues to carefully monitor Hamas movements. A senior IDF officer in the Southern Command said on Thursday that since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 the army runs drills to prepare for possible combat against Hamas forces.

“Since the end of the Operation we are training and preparing for all the threats. Hamas is busy building its forces and we are busy planning the next battle, in which we will without a doubt hit them hard enough so that the deterrence will last for many years,” he said.

According to the senior officer, Hamas’ “military branch,” the Al-Qassam Brigades, has increased its strength, and the security establishment estimates that it includes around 20,000 terrorists, the most it has ever had.

He detailed the lessons learned from Protective Edge, including: “the issue of evacuating towns adjacent to the (security) barrier, transferring the headquarters and staging grounds (for entry to Gaza) deep into the territory, operating the warning system and establishing combat teams to secure the towns in order to give a defense response, all while conducting an offensive which is the most important thing in any battle.”

“Today we have very detailed information on each of the 25 battalions, so that every one of our battalion commanders or company commanders is familiar with the enemy facing them at an updated level,” explained the senior source.

While Hamas is disappointed that the security situation in Yehudah and Shomron appears to be stabilizing somewhat, the terror group is dealing with internal and external tensions and a high level of unemployment in Gaza, and therefore it doesn’t intend to conduct attacks against Israel at the current time.