JERUSALEM – Hamas test-fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea for the second time in nine days in a show of military strength months after its devastating war with Israel.
Monday’s launch of at least two rockets was observed by residents of Hamas-ruled Gaza and confirmed by the Israeli military. Hamas officials wouldn’t comment.
“The Hamas movement wants to send a message that its military capabilities are still strong” in case another war breaks out, said Adnan Abu Aamer, a political science professor at Al-Umma University in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Friction between the sides has heated up in recent weeks. Hamas has fired rockets into the sea and at southern Israel, the Israeli military has said, noting its air force Saturday conducted its first strike inside Gaza since the summer war. More than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed in the fighting, which damaged or destroyed thousands of homes, as well as businesses, hospitals and mosques.
Khaled Hamada, a Gaza City student who lives near the beach, said he feared an Israeli attack when he first heard the rocket fire Monday. “Then I looked from the window of my room and I saw the smoke and I realized that it was a test rocket fired into the sea,” Hamada said.
The U.S., European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization. During the war in July and August, Hamas-manufactured rockets with ranges as long as 100 miles (160 km) were fired at Israel.
Last week, the movement celebrated its 27th anniversary with a display of weaponry that included truck-mounted rockets. At the Gaza City rally, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing thanked Iran for providing money and weapons used against Israel.
Iran “was unsparing in its financial and military and other assistance and provided us with missiles that pulverized the defense of the Zionist enemy,” spokesman Abu Obeida said.
Michael Segall, a former head of the Iran desk for the research branch of Israeli military intelligence, said Iranian support for the Hamas rocket program was a “long-term investment” in a strategy designed to “encircle Israel.”
“Iran has completely removed the secrecy surrounding its provision of rockets and missiles to anti-Israeli terror organizations,” Segall wrote in a paper Monday for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli research center with close links to the government.