Shin Bet head Argaman: Don’t allow Hamas to turn into Hezbollah
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- Hezbollah Hezbollah is a Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based...[+]
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As Israel moves towards a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet Nadav Argaman has warned the Security Cabinet against allowing Hamas to turn into the second Hezbollah by not limiting the terror group’s military buildup as part of the arrangement.
According to a report by Yedioth Ahronoth, during the security cabinet meeting on Wednesday that was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Argaman read an article which discussed Israel’s failure to stop Hezbollah’s intensive military buildup following the Second Lebanon War and warned of a similar possibility in Gaza.
Most of the clauses in the ceasefire moderated by the Egyptians are reported to have already been agreed upon by defense and government officials and it’s expected to be signed before Israel once again goes to the polls in March.
As part of the agreement, Israel will reportedly increase the number of entry permits for Gazan laborers and merchants as well as widen the fishing zone off of the blockaded coastal enclave, currently set at 14 nautical miles.
Infrastructure projects like the construction of a natural gas pipeline and increased medical assistance and equipment for hospitals as well as other goods are also reported to be part of Israel’s concessions.
The ceasefire agreement does not require Hamas to return the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, which they have held since 2014, or Israeli civilian captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
Hamas for its part will commit to ending rocket fire and gunfire along the border fence and gradually stop the Great Return March protests. While the political echelon believes that having a long-term calm in Gaza is an opportunity which should not be overlooked, Argaman and the Shin Bet however has objected to the renewed entry of Gazan workers, stating that the permits could be used by terror groups to send Palestinians to carry out attacks in Israel.
Argaman also reiterated the agency’s position against weakening the Palestinian Authority which cooperates with the Shin Bet in stopping attacks in the West Bank after Defense Minister Naftali Bennett decided to freeze 149 million shekels ($43 million) from PA tax revenues last week.
He asserted that it was wrong to punish the PA that while at the same time rewarding Hamas in the form of humanitarian relief.
Despite being blockaded by Israel and Egypt for over a decade, terror groups in the Gaza Strip have been able to increase their missile arsenal in both quality and quantity both by smuggling and by producing their own locally-made rockets.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have carried out tests on an almost regular basis since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, firing rockets towards the sea in an attempt to increase their range and destructive power.
Hamas is believed to have thousands of short range rockets, thousands of medium range rockets which can strike 20-55 kms away, hundreds of rockets with a range of 80 kms and dozens of rockets which have a range of over 100 kilometers.
Hamas, which has a fighting force of close to 40,000 men, is also estimated to have thousands more mortars. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Hamas had about 11,000 rockets before Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
But following several rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past year and hundreds of airstrikes against Hamas weapons warehouses and other military targets, defense officials estimate that the number of rockets have been reduced to half that amount to some 5,000-6,000.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful group in the Strip, was left relatively unscatched by Israeli airstrikes until recently and is therefore estimated to have 8,000 rockets (more than Hamas) and a fighting force of 9,000 men with another 6,000 fighters. But the majority of PIJ’s rocket arsenal are more primitive than those of Hamas and have a shorter range.