Agence France Presse
|Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, |
squat in a tunnel used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in
preparation for the next conflict with Israel, March 3, 2015 (AFP Mahmud Hams)
Now, you know that missiles are not defensive weapons, they are offensive. They are not for protecting Gaza, but for destroying Israel. They will not deter Israel, but only cause them to be more aggressive in their response. So, in reality, these missiles will result in more damage to Gaza and more Palestinians dead or injured. Why do Palestinians want this? Are they nuts?
Six months ago, the Palestinian militant group emerged battered and bruised from a 50-day conflict with Israel, where it fought alongside fellow Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Islamic Jihad's armed wing the Al-Quds Brigades lost 123 men, but fired 3,249 rockets at the Jewish state, it says, including Iranian-made Fajr 5 missiles which reached Tel Aviv and even northern Israel.
The conflict, where Israel tried to flush out Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants by bombarding the coastal enclave, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
But the group says it is resurgent.
"We're at our highest level of alert to counter any attack. We're used to the occupation (Israel) breaking its ceasefires," senior commander Abu al-Bara told AFP from one of the group's tunnels.
"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. We're gathering all our strength since it's a war that never ends. We're ready to go to another level against the Zionist occupation and carry out actions we've never done before," he said, without elaborating.
The war ended on August 26 with a fragile Hamas-Israel ceasefire brokered by Egypt.
In the meantime, Islamic Jihad has sought to replace its fallen comrades, and its manpower is estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 fighters.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad refuse to specify the number of fighters, or rockets, they currently possess, but both were severely depleted by the Israeli assault, which included fierce ground combat.
- 'Abu Bakr street' -
Israel's ground invasion was aimed at destroying the hundreds of tunnels Gaza's two main Islamist groups had built, both for smuggling supplies and for attacks inside Israel.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas staged deadly assaults on Israeli troops using the tunnels.
|A Palestinian militant from Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades,|
stands in a tunnel used for storing weapons, as he takes part in military training
in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Inside, placards had been erected on the concrete walls, naming "streets" to help militants navigate the network.
One route was named after Abu Bakr al-Sadiq, the first Islamic caliph following the Prophet Mohammed's death in 632; another, Othman Ibn Affan, a successor.
Quds fighters said the group had a network of tunnels of "different lengths, some with several entrances".
But they were silent on the network's location or how it was built.
Their weapons were made inside Gaza, they said, but without elaborating on how the parts were obtained or purchased.
It was an open secret before July 2013 that smuggling tunnels underneath the Egyptian border brought in much of Gaza's construction and fuel needs, money, and weapons, or the material to make them.
But Egypt destroyed the vast majority after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a crackdown was launched against his Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's ally.
Islamic Jihad, founded like Hamas in the 1980s, traditionally has its closest ties with Tehran, having been inspired by the Iranian revolution.
- 'Mujahedin school' -
Israel accuses the groups of continuing to seize construction material entering Gaza to make tunnels and weapons.
"Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have openly declared that they are rebuilding tunnels and testing rockets and other things like that," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP.
"They've been siphoning off from the civilians of Gaza forever," he said, warning that Israel was prepared for further confrontation.
Underground and overground, the Quds Brigades lie ready.
In the southern city of Khan Yunis, a banner reads: "School of the Mujahedin".
Some 200 new recruits aged 19 to 22 are training at the camp, ducking under live fire, jumping through flaming hoops and shouting "Death to Israel! Death to America!".
Instructor Abu Ahmed says the masked young men are going through "very advanced training".
"Their training lasts between 36 days and six months, before they go to a specialised unit like explosives or sharp shooting," he said.
"We don't just have tunnels -- we also invest in people," Abu al-Bara interjected.
"With ideas and fighting, it is people who will liberate this land."
'Liberate'! Right! Hamas and Islamic Jihad are going to bring freedom to Palestine! Freedom to force women into cloth prisons, to refuse to allow them to leave the home, to beat them for the slightest offence, to rape women and children without penalty, to beat their children to death for glancing the wrong way or for being 12 and refusing to marry a 78 year old pedophile. Freedom!
Amazing! No complaints or criticism about this action from anyone. These tunnels, weapons, and military training are provocations and an obvious declaration that Israel will never be allowed to live in peace. Shouldn't there be screams of condemnation from the US, the UN, the UK, etc.?
No, all three Us are most likely sending money to Gaza to rebuild schools, hospitals, infrastructure so life can turn to some semblance of order. But what is happening to the money and materials sent to Gaza? - they are being diverted so Hamas and Islamic Jihad can build tunnels, weapons and import missiles for attacking Israel.
It's another one of those situations where the US is supplying weapons to both sides of a conflict, only this conflict involves their only real ally in the middle east. The 3 Us should not be sending a cent to Palestine until they give up their Satanic obsession with destroying Israel.