Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Armed Palestinian Factions Use Calm with Israel to Train New Fighters | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat – Shortly after nightfall, blinding heavy dust suddenly rises over the Al-Sikkah Street, which is adjacent from the western side to the Birkat al-Wazz, to the west of the Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, the sound of heavy fire can be heard, while minutes later, tens of men belonging to the al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of the Hamas Movement, are seen moving fast in columns in the street with their full military gear.

To the north of that neighborhood, lies the garrison of “Battalion 13”, which is the main training location of the al-Qassam Brigades in the area. In the past, this site belonged to the security agencies of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, but it was seized during the decisive military action that ended with Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Since the calm agreement between Israel and Hamas came into play, it has been clearly evident that Palestinian resistance factions, without exception, have taken advantage of the ceasefire by conducting military training for their recruits.

The al-Qassam Brigades have recently announced on several occasions the graduation of new groups of fighters. While a number of other military Palestinian factions have set up training sites in former Jewish settlements. These sites are regarded as the best environment for conducting military training because they are uninhabited, have sandy hills, and are very close to the seacoast. In addition to the al-Qassam Brigades, the Al-Quds Brigades, military wing of the Islamic Jihad; the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military group belonging to the Fatah Movement; and the Al-Nasir Salah-al-Din Brigades, military wing of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, have all announced the completion of military exercises and in the process the training of more fighters, while the Abu-Ali Mustafa Brigades, military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, recently announced the start of registration for its military training.

The calm [with Israel] has encouraged resistance movements to conduct military exercises inside Palestinian residential areas that are close to the border areas, without approaching the contact lines with the Israeli army. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees Abu-Mujahid said the training exercises that are carried out by the armed Palestinian resistance movements are part of these movements’ preparations to confront any large-scale Israeli military operation in the heart of the Gaza Strip. He added: “Given the threats by (Israeli Defense Minister) Baraq and his chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi [chief of the army general staff] to carry out an incursion into Gaza when the calm period ends, it is quite obvious that the resistance factions have no option, but to take maximum precautionary measures and be on guard in order to confront any aggression.” Abu-Mujahid said the training includes training in the abduction of soldiers, in addition to a number of martial arts, which military commanders learned from their direct clashes with the occupation forces. He pointed out that the resistance factions “learned lessons from their actions during Israeli military operations in the heart of the Gaza Strip.” He threatened Israel with “unpleasant surprises if Israel attacks the Gaza Strip.”