Hamas says it has 50,000-man Gaza army

Sunday, September 30, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip claim that they now have 50,000 men under arms in anticipation of a large-scale Israeli ground invasion aimed at curbing Palestinian rocket fire at the southern regions of the Jewish state.

In remarks carried by a Hamas website, group spokesman Nizar Rayyan said that “50,000 fighters, armed and brave in the battlefield” have been deployed to counter the expected Israeli invasion. Rayyan added that some 400 suicide bombers, half of whom are women, have also been recruited and trained to attack Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.

Israeli military officials estimate that Hamas has a standing army of some 20,000 in Gaza that is closely modeled on Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia and funded by Iran.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week warned that an Israeli incursion into Gaza is closer than ever as a result of incessant terrorist rocket fire on communities in southern Israel.

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