The military wing of the Hamas movement, al-Qassam Brigades, recently published a statement of its “evolution of military tactics” including the “development and accumulation of strength since 2006.” The publication allows a glimpse into the growing military capabilities of the militant group that has benefited highly from Iranian military support.
The group detailed its underground operations saying it had dug tunnels tens of kilometers in length since 2006. Offensive and defensive tunnels were also excavated containing command and control rooms enabling the group to efficiently direct attacks from protected positions. The offensive tunnels were used to launch infiltration operations inside Israeli territory resulting in several successful attacks. Some of the operations that were noted include the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006 and a surprise attack against an IDF post near Nahal Oz in 2014.
Highlighting the militant group’s persistent attempts to duplicate the success of the Gilad Shalit abduction, 27 operations in total have been launched to capture IDF soldiers in order to force Israel to release Palestinian militants serving lengthy prison sentences for acts of terrorism.
In 2014, Hamas successfully captured the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Golden during Operation Protective Edge. The group also mentioned the capture of Israeli citizens Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed as successful operations.
The group noted its most successful naval operation that occurred in 2014 when a group of al-Qassam Brigades naval commandos infiltrated Israeli territory near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. All but one of the commandos were killed as they fought off IDF air, naval and ground forces repelling the infiltration.
Al-Qassam Brigades further emphasized that its maritime unit continues to be trained for further operations in a future conflict with Israel.
Al-Qassam Brigades boasted that it has undergone a “quantum leap” in the operations it’s been able to carry out against Israel since 2006. The group also claimed that its militants often operated in a “decentralized manner” with “modest weapons and methods.”
Furthermore, the group considers itself a “regular army” due to the “tens of thousands of weapons and combat varieties whose work is based on sophisticated [military] tactics.”
The IDF Holds a Major Advantage Despite Al-Qassam Brigades’ Military Advancements
The military advancements highlighted in the publication are remarkable and that’s without mentioning the vast arsenal of short to long-range rockets, including the continuous development of weaponized drone technology.
Palestinian militant groups, especially al-Qassam Brigades, have not been shy about publicly praising Iran and former IRGC Quds Force chief, Qasem Soleimani, for their involvement in the transfer of arms and military know-how. It’s doubtful that al-Qassam Brigades and its various counterparts in the Gaza Strip would have drastically advanced militarily if it weren’t for Iranian support.
However, for all the advancements al-Qassam Brigades has touted in its publication, the IDF has been able to successfully counter it by technological means and continuous military training.
The threat of tunnels inside Israeli territory have been nullified by the recent completion of an underground tunnel barrier and security fence at the Gaza-Israel border. With sophisticated sensors, the barrier detects and prevents tunnel-digging into Israel.
The threat of a naval attack has also been countered when Israel’s Defense Ministry completed a maritime barrier off Gaza’s northern border. The barrier is reportedly 20 feet high, 200 meters in length and is equipped with sensors to detect seismic activity.
The advanced capabilities al-Qassam Brigades has been able to amass is impressive considering the Gaza Strip has been under a military blockade for almost 15 years. It’s unlikely it would have been able to achieve its success without major support from Iran and its famed former general Qasem Soleimani. But the IDF continues to have a considerable advantage of a fully functioning military with the latest capabilities and technology which continues to afford it a major advantage in a future conflict with the militant group.