Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on Friday said that the Arab Spring movement that started in late 2010 and swept rulers out of power throughout the region “embolded” Hamas and made it easier for them to import weapons that they are now using to target Israeli civilians.
“Clearly, Hamas has felt emboldened by the changes in the region generally and that has redounded to their benefit,” Oren said in response to a question by the Washington Examiner during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project. “The major problem as far as the Arab Spring’s issues impacts the ability of Hamas to import missiles is the greater accessibility to Gaza from Sudan and Libya. And the flow of arms from Libya has been significant. We’ve encountered arms already that have been fired at us that have been brought in from Libya as well as on the Sudanese route. And the general situation in Sinai and the loss of effective controls in Sinai have facilitated the flow of advanced arms into Gaza.”
In the past several days, Hamas has fired over 330 rockets at Israeli civilians, but what’s been different about this current conflict is that the terrorist group has been able to fire longer-range rockets that have been able to reach major population centers — the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and Jerusalem, the nation’s capital.
Oren said that Israel believes Hamas has a limited supply of the longer-range missiles and between the ones they’ve already fired and the ones that Israel was able to destroy in retaliatory air strikes, “we don’t think they have many more.” But he said Hamas still did have a large stockpile of short and mid-range missiles.
One of the major problems Israel faces is that unlike the terrorist group Hamas, which directly targets civilians, Israel’s military goes out of its way to protect civilian lives. This has inhibited its ability to target Hamas, which hides its leaders and weapons in civilian areas. Just yesterday, Israel had to call off an air strike when civilians were discovered in the area.
Oren said Israel has called up 16,000 reservists and that ground troops are “ready to act should there be a need.”