Monday, July 07, 2008

"Calm" before the storm

From McClatchy Newspapers, in the last paragraphs of an article:
In a nondescript Gaza Strip mosque, a group of Islamic Jihad fighters wearing black facemasks and combat vests proudly showed off Chinese-made machine guns and Russian rocket-propelled-grenades.

"It's like rain coming down," said one 25-year-old militant who identified himself as Abu Thabet. "You can get all kinds of weapons."

Though they aren't regularly firing rockets, Islamic Jihad members said they're still making new ones.

"This cease-fire is a matter of rest," said a 20-year-old fighter who gave his nom du guerre as Abu Mohammed. "It's a fighters' break, to prepare for the next stage."

The Jerusalem Post elaborates on Hamas' own activities during the "calm"

Hamas is feverishly training as well as acquiring relevant weapons systems - of a type far superior in quality to those previously associated with the organization.

The weapons systems on which Hamas is thought to be currently training in the Gaza Strip include a wire-guided anti-tank missile, probably the AT-3 Sagger, and additional anti-tank guided missiles: the AT-4 Spigot, the tripod-fired AT-5 Spandrel and the shoulder-fired AT-14 Spriggan - all useful against armor. All these systems have ranges of several kilometers.

In addition, Hamas is thought to have brought into Gaza large numbers of RPG-29 Vampir handheld anti-tank grenade launchers with a range of 500 meters, which are capable of penetrating reactive armor and are considered far superior to the RPG 7 systems used by the movement in the past.

Hamas is also developing improvised explosive devices, i.e. bombs. The organization possesses an Iranian-developed, locally-produced system known as the Shawaz explosively-formed penetrator that it says can penetrate 20 cm. of steel. Hamas also claims to possess air defense missiles, though no information could be obtained on their nature or the veracity of the claim. Imports from Iran and Syria and local production are all playing a role in the movement's development of its arsenal.

In addition to arming Gaza to the teeth, Hamas is recruiting fresh fighters. Once again, the model is Hizbullah, and the intention appears to be to develop a force part-way between a regular army and a guerrilla force, of the type developed under Iranian tutelage by the Shi'ite Lebanese group. Extensive recruitment has been taking place in the past month. New fighters have been accepted to both the Izzadin Kassam Brigades - Hamas's long-standing military wing, and to the Executive Force - the newer group created since Hamas's election victory in January 2006.