Hamas, exploiting truce, 'dramatically increases military training in Gaza
Schalit negotiations still frozen as Hamas talks in Cairo fail
By YAAKOV KATZ The Jerusalem Post (print edition) 1 August 2008
Hamas has dramatically increased its training regime in the Gaza Strip since
the ceasefire with Israel went into effect there in June, senior defense
officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
According to latest intelligence information obtained by IDF Military
Intelligence, Hamas is using the truce to train its forces openly, and not
in secret as it formerly did for fear of Israeli air strikes. Shin Bet
(Israel Security 'Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset earlier this
week that Hamas was continuing to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza
and had obtained "new capabilities."
"Hamas doesn't fear Israel and understands that it needs to take advantage
of the quiet right now to train its forces ahead of a possible war in the
future," a defense official said.
Gazans have also been holding an unprecedented number of weddings. According
to numbers presented during a security assessment convened by Deputy
Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i on Thursday evening there have been more than
200 weddings in Beit Lahiya alone in the past few days.
During the meeting, Vilna'i ordered Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, head of the
Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, to meet with the Egyptians
next week to discuss another possible increase in the quantity of goods and
raw materials transferred by Israel to Gaza.
The increase, officials said, would only be approved if progress was made in
the negotiations for the release of kidnapped St.-Sg. Gilad Schalit. The
talks between a Hamas delegation and Egyptian officials in Cairo this week
did not succeed and the negotiations are still at a standstill, the
Also on Thursday, the IDF put on hold a plan to consolidate the crossings
into the Gaza Strip and to distance the border facilities from the border to
make it harder for terrorists to attack, and has instead begun renovating
the Kerem Shalom crossing to facilitate the increase in merchandise being
allowed into the Strip under the cease-fire. There are currently five
crossings straddling the Israeli-Gaza border - Kami, Erez, Kerem Shalom,
Sufa and the Nahal Oz fuel depot. Work on the plan to consolidate the
crossings and to move them began shortly after April's car bomb attack
against the Kerem Shalom crossing in which 11 soldiers were wounded.
According to the plan, some of the crossings would be canceled and others
moved slightly east into Israel to create a buffer zone. The project would
have entailed moving the crossings several kilometers deeper at a cost of
several hundred million shekels.