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Hamas Conducts Large-scale Military Exercise Amid Tensions With Israel, Palestinian Authority

The Hamas terror organization conducted wide-scale drills in the Gaza Strip Sunday, with its so-called “armed wing,” the Izzeldin Kassam Brigades, carrying out urban warfare exercises throughout populated cities that included live-fire and explosions. According to eyewitnesses cited by Arabic media, Hamas forces also shot two advanced missiles into the Mediterranean Sea and tested two new drones. The military activity—in particular what the IDF called “unusual machine gun fire”—triggered early-warning rocket alert systems throughout southern Israel and prompted the unnecessary launch of ten Iron Dome anti-missile interceptors. While the drills were undoubtedly intended as a show of strength amid heightened tensions with Israel, their timing likely also was meant to convey a message to the rival Palestinian Authority, which blames the  terror group for the recent assassination attempt of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. In a bid to end a decade-long intensifying feud, the two sides signed a reconciliation agreement late last year that never materialized, largely because Gaza’s rulers adamantly refuse to disarm. Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated at a press conference that “Hamas must hand over everything [in Gaza]… including, first and foremost, the security sector.”