Israel Security Agency head Yoram Cohen tells lawmakers that Gaza has turned into a weapons depot since Israeli forces withdrew • Some of Hamas’ operational abilities have surpassed those of Hezbollah, he says.
Israel must launch a military operation to rout terrorist organizations from the Gaza Strip immediately, Israel Security Agency head Yoram Cohen warned on Wednesday.
“The IDF’s inaction against terrorist organizations will lead to a situation in which Hamas has far greater abilities in the next round of fighting,” Cohen told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. It was his first appearance before the committee.
Cohen said Israel’s dilemma was not whether to launch such an offensive, but rather how Hamas would respond.
“Such action might force a significant number of people [in Israel] into bomb shelters,” Cohen said.
“Since the IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the territory has become a huge weapons depot,” Cohen told the committee. “Hamas currently has 8,000 rockets that can reach a range of 4 to 40 km (2.5 to 25 miles).”
He added that Hamas is rumored to have acquired a handful of rockets capable of striking even greater distances, and that some of Hamas’ operational abilities have surpassed those of the Shiite terrorist militia Hezbollah.
Cohen said that terrorist groups in Gaza have developed “an Israel Military Industries-like apparatus to produce and develop rockets that might one day reach the Gush Dan region [in central Israel].”
He also warned that Gaza-based terrorists have been getting assistance from other regional players, particularly from “experts, including Iranians and other operatives who were sent overseas for training.”
He said the popular uprising in Libya that toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has transformed that country into a “new gate to hell” through which shoulder missiles and rockets have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
Cohen said his agency had its eye on hundreds of targets in the Gaza Strip. “When the order is given, they can be hit,” he said.