In the heart of the Gaza Strip, a formidable transformation is underway. From its beginnings in 1992 with less than 10,000 members, Hamas has meticulously crafted an army of 40,000 fighters, posing a significant challenge to Israel. Let’s delve into the strategic maneuvers and external alliances that have fueled this military expansion.
The Genesis: From Leaflets to a Robust Army
Founded as a small group distributing anti-occupation leaflets, Hamas has evolved into a substantial force with 24 well-trained battalions. The group’s “miniature army” has not only endured but thrived, defying Israel’s attempts to curb its growth.
External Support and Local Innovation
To circumvent Israel’s blockade, Hamas, under the leadership of Ali Baraka, combines external support with local ingenuity. Financial and military aid from Iran, coupled with training from groups like Hezbollah, has been pivotal. Ismail Haniyeh revealed that Iran contributed a staggering $70 million to Hamas in 2022, enabling the group to enhance its military capabilities.
Hamas doesn’t solely rely on external aid; it has developed the capability to produce weapons locally. Rockets, a symbol of its strength, now boast a range of 230 km, reaching major Israeli cities. As Haniyeh confirms, they receive rockets from various countries, including Iran and Syria.
Tunnel Networks and Strategic Infrastructure
Since the early 2000s, Hamas has meticulously constructed a vast tunnel system in the Gaza Strip, providing shelter and concealing weapons. This intricate network spans approximately 500 km, presenting a formidable challenge for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Efforts to neutralize it include innovative strategies, such as pumping seawater into the tunnels, showcasing Israel’s determination to counteract Hamas’ underground strength.
Escalating Conflict and Regional Implications
Hamas’ enhanced combat capabilities have taken a toll on the IDF, with casualties increasing over the years. The recent conflict in 2021 left Hamas with 40% of its rocket inventory, a primary target for the IDF in the ongoing campaign. Ali Baraka emphasizes that the October 7 raid aimed to liberate Palestinian prisoners, protect Al Aqsa mosque, and lift the Gaza Strip’s 16-year blockade.
As tensions escalate, Baraka warns of potential regional repercussions if the US and UK continue supporting Israel’s ground offensive. He asserts, “This is no longer Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip; new fronts will be opened.”
In the heart of the conflict, Hamas has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, challenging Israel’s dominance. As the IDF grapples with the complexities of urban combat, the dynamics of this confrontation continue to unfold, with regional implications hanging in the balance. The evolution of Hamas from a small resistance group to a formidable military power is a testament to strategic planning, external support, and local innovation.