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Hamas attempts to rehabilitate itself in Gaza, recruits teenage boys to fill ranks

Most recruitment is reportedly happening in areas where IDF pulled out, such as Khan Younis

Palestinian youth demonstrate their skills during a graduation ceremony of a military-style camp organized by Hamas in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 18, 2017. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Hamas terrorist organization has been attempting to replenish the ranks of terrorists eliminated by Israel during the Gaza War, Army Radio correspondent Doron Kadosh stated recently.

According to Kadosh, Hamas has appealed to 16- through 18-year-olds to enlist in its forces and, in recent days, security forces have identified attempts to train and equip these newly recruited terrorists. 

Hamas is reportedly trying to recruit fighters to replace around 14,000 terrorists that Israel has eliminated in the war so far, and many thousands more who have been wounded in the fighting, as well as around 4,000 who have been captured since the war began. 

“All of Hamas' military frameworks are in recovery, Hamas is trying to rehabilitate throughout the Gaza Strip, but mainly in areas where the IDF does not operate – northern Gaza and Khan Younis," Kadosh reported on Sunday morning. 

According to the report, Hamas is conducting training camps for new recruits in an attempt to rehabilitate itself.

Khan Younis is one place where Hamas is attempting to recover with new recruits. Not only are military frameworks being rebuilt there, roughly two months after the 98th Division left the area, but Hamas has also been attempting to restore local control in the streets through policing and seizing humanitarian aid, according to reports.

The Israeli military is aware of Hamas’ attempts to rehabilitate, especially its governing arm, which is why the IDF has been targeting members of Hamas' internal security forces for elimination. Since the beginning of the war, about 50 commanders and senior officials in the internal security forces have been killed. 

While no one knows exactly how many remaining forces Hamas has, the IDF estimates the numbers to be between 5,000 and 10,000 pre-war fighters. The killing of "chain-of-command" senior officers has reportedly made reconstructing destroyed battalions a difficult process. 

Even in areas where the IDF is currently fighting Hamas, the military reports that it is encountering smaller cells of terrorists fighting in sporadic and disorganized ways although still capable of causing significant injuries or casualties, as seen in the recent attack on the APC which killed 8 soldiers in Rafah. 

While any youth joining the terror group is likely aware of the high number of casualties among Hamas operatives, the massive destruction of the Gaza Strip, and the near-total collapse of the economy, means there are few other options for young men to earn money for their families. 

At the same time, new recruits still pose a risk to the IDF.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told Israel Hayom that “most of the recruits are boys aged 16 and up, who are recruited by Hamas' military-terrorist wing in exchange for payment. Because they are enthusiastic young people, it motivates them. This is a phenomenon that has been happening for a maximum of two months and is very worrying.”

He added: “These young people know the terrain well and run fast.” 

If recruitment and training continue, the IDF may have to re-enter these areas, as it did in Jabaliya, according to reports.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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