- The explosion in a Hamas depot of weapons and ammunition in Tyre exposed parts of the military infrastructure established by the Hamas organization in Lebanon with Hizbullah’s approval and the blind eye of the Lebanese government.
- Hamas’ Deputy Commander Saleh al-Arouri and the Hamas branch in Turkey are responsible for the establishment of the infrastructure to build military capabilities in Lebanon in order to attack Israel on the northern front, as well as from Gaza in the south.
On December 10, 2021, while the Hamas movement was holding huge celebrations in the Gaza Strip to mark the 34th anniversary of its founding, a large explosion erupted in the movement’s weapons and ammunition depot under the Hamas-affiliated Obei al-Kaab Mosque in the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp in the city of Tyre, Lebanon.
Following the explosion, there were conflicting reports of casualties. Lebanese sources reported 12 injuries, but the director-general of al-Shifa, the Medical Association for Humanitarian Services, told Lebanese media that there were no fatalities or injuries as a result of the explosion. He and Hamas officials claimed the blast was caused by an explosion of oxygen tanks use to fight the coronavirus. Local residents did not believe them.
Eventually, Hamas published an obituary notice for a Hamas “martyr,” Hamza Shaheen, who died in the explosion. During his funeral, a gun battle broke out in the Burj Shamali refugee camp, killing four. Hamas alleged that the shootout was instigated by the rival Palestinian organization, Fatah.
The fire spread to homes near the mosque whose residents had been evacuated.
The Saudi channel Al-Arabiya reported that the detonated Hamas warehouse contained rockets and bombs stored in the mosque’s basement. It is a tried method by Hamas and Hizbullah for concealing materiel and hiding weapons and ammunition under mosques, schools, and hospitals to deter Israel from attacking these crowded civilian facilities, using them as human shields to protect their arsenals.
Hamas’ ammunition depot in the city of Tyre is part of the military infrastructure that the organization has built, in recent years, in southern Lebanon, as a lesson learned from the rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip against Israel. This new Hamas infrastructure was already used during Operation Guardians of the Walls in May 2021, when their operatives fired several rockets at northern Israel.
According to security sources, Israel has monitored Hamas’ covert activities in southern Lebanon in recent years and even tried to attack it with clandestine Mossad activities. In January 2018, senior Hamas figure Muhammad Hamdan was standing next to his car in Sidon when it exploded. He suffered minor injuries. Lebanese security officials arrested several people alleged to be affiliated with the Mossad who carried out similar operations in Tunisia and Dubai.
According to Lebanese officials, Muhammad Hamdan was Hamas’ secret contact with Iran in the Sidon area and was preparing to build a Hamas infrastructure in southern Lebanon, in accordance with the instructions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Israeli security officials report that Hamas’ military infrastructure in Lebanon was established by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, who also serves as head of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing in the West Bank and Hamas’ liaison to Hizbullah.
IDF Major-General (res) Eitan Dangut, the former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, recently called on the Israeli security establishment to eliminate Saleh al-Arouri because of the danger he poses to Israel.
Hamas’ military infrastructure in Lebanon includes several hundred Palestinian operatives in the Palestinian refugee camps and was established with the approval of Hizbullah and Iran and with the blind eye of the Lebanese government.
Hamas’ military working theory is that Israel should be militarily engaged on two simultaneous fronts, in the event of a war on the Gaza Strip border. This would prevent Hizbullah from being held responsible for attacking Israel from southern Lebanon.
Hizbullah does not currently seek a military confrontation with Israel and fears that Israel would destroy Lebanon’s entire civilian infrastructure and “return it to the Stone Age,” as senior Israeli officials have warned. The Israeli security establishment assesses that at the moment, the goal of Hamas’ military infrastructure in Lebanon, is mainly to harass Israel by firing rockets in a measured manner that would not lead to war in southern Lebanon.
The rocket fire from southern Lebanon towards Israel is carried out in coordination between Saleh al-Arouri and Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip. During the May 2021 Gaza fighting, a joint military operations post was established in Beirut with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah, and Hamas, according to reports of the editor-in-chief of the Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar.3
According to Israeli security sources, Iran is instructing Hamas operatives in southern Lebanon how to manufacture rockets and drones. Hamas’ manufacturing system in Lebanon is part of the organization’s “construction department” and includes several workshops under the command of Majed Khader, who was based in Turkey and was transferred to Lebanon last year.4 Hamas’ new military-terrorist wing in Lebanon operates under civilian cover and has several units: a unit responsible for recruiting operatives into the organization’s ranks, one for manufacturing weapons and purchasing rockets, and a unit for training fighters and manufacturing weapons. Workshops and rockets are hidden in civilian buildings in Lebanon, including in residential buildings and businesses.
Israel must expose Hamas’ covert military activity in Lebanon and hold the Lebanese government responsible for any hostile action against Israel. The establishment of a new Hamas military wing in Lebanon in preparation for its operation against Israel symbolizes the strengthening of Hamas, which, because of its military capabilities, has become an important regional force that could destabilize the regional stability of several Arab countries. It is essential that Israel strikes the organization with a strong military surprise in the Gaza Strip to destroy its military capabilities. The organization is growing to the dimensions of a military monster that threatens Israel not only from the Gaza Strip. Until then, Israel should neutralize the leaders of the organization’s military wing who are leading this dangerous trend, led by Saleh al-Arouri.
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