TEL AVIV – Hamas launched a large-scale military exercise in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in response to Israel’s increased forces along the border and ahead of a mass march as part of a “day of rage” planned to coincide with the eve of Passover later in the week.
Explosions and gunfire were heard during the drill and at least one rocket was launched into the sea as part of the exercise. Tractors outfitted to look like Israel-made Merkava tanks were used in the exercise to simulate IDF forces, Hebrew-language news site YNet said.
The terror group’s so-called armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said the exercise, which they called “defensive,” would last until Monday morning.
Thousands of Palestinians from Gaza will attempt to storm border fences on a planned “day of rage” on Friday to coincide with both Passover eve and Palestinian Land Day.
The tension in the south intensified after an incursion by four Palestinians in the Kissufim area who set fire to an IDF engineering vehicle.
Last Sunday, Israel destroyed two terror tunnels in Gaza.
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum responded to IDF strikes saying Israel would “bear the consequences for the continued escalation and loss of life.”
“If the Israeli enemy thinks this escalation will break the will of the Palestinian people and achieve its goals, it is deluding itself and misunderstanding our people’s nature.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week warned western donor countries that its aid money to Gaza was being used to build attack tunnels.
“It is time for the international community to recognize that the Gaza aid money is being buried underground,” he added, addressing recent attempts at the UN to raise funds for Gaza, which is facing a severe humanitarian crisis.
“Our policy is to take determined action against any attempt to harm us and to systematically eliminate the terror tunnel infrastructure, and we shall continue to do so,” Netanyahu said.