Most Fighting Men Went AWOL

While Hamas' (non-combatant) Damascus heads, led by supreme leader Khaled Meshaal, claimed a great victory over Israel in last week's Gaza conflict, the group's military wing has just completed an inquiry into how well it actually performed.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources, after seeing the Hamas report, disclose its most surprising finding: Of the 35,000 Hamas men under arms, no more than 1,000 took part in the fighting.

For Hamas, this finding is disastrous; only 3 percent of a large military force was prepared to fight for the cause.

But in another respect, the puny scale of the enemy sharply diminishes the extent of Israel's battlefield success and negates its claim that the Gaza operation repaired the damage wrought to its military deterrence by the 2006 Lebanon War.

The Hamas military wing's probe discovered that in all the sectors invaded by Israeli forces, such as the Zeitan and Sejaya on the outskirts of Gaza City, the majority of Hamas combatants failed to come out when called upon to fight. And in the villages and urban areas not entered by Israeli troops, Hamas gunmen did not report to their stations.

The elite 500-strong Suicide Unit, trained to halt the advance of Israeli tank columns, never turned up for duty. The inquiry panel describes how carefully the members of this crack volunteer unit were selected. Anyone who had served in Hamas' armed forces might apply, but few were accepted. Only after 35 days of rigorous investigation of a volunteer's background and abilities, would his application be considered. Then began harsh training courses in the sectors where they were assigned to fight off an Israeli military incursion.

So highly was the Suicide Unit rated, that in the internal briefings for top political and military leaders they were referred to as Hamas' Doomsday Weapon, powerful enough to determine the outcome of any war.

Here too performance was dismal. None of the elite unit's members sent on suicide missions against Israel forces performed them. Instead, they sought out children and destitute men and paid them a few dollars to carry explosive devices and plant them at certain spots. Because these carriers were ignorant about such matters, the explosives were never activated.

The Hamas military report also found that the communications network installed in the Gaza Strip for war contingencies was non-functioning. The commands had no way of contacting the men in the field.

These findings demonstrate that the Israeli war commanders' reluctance to send the army into the heart of Gaza City to capture the entire Hamas command for fear of heavy casualties was groundless.

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