Hamas has been warned by its own senior members to stop boasting of its military prowess.
Middle East Newsline (MENL) quotes Ahmed Yusef, a leading Hamas political operative in Gaza, as having said, "We, as Palestinians, have been using expressions that the enemy [Israel] could use as a pretext for its aggression and as a justification for its crimes."
Just two weeks ago, Yusef said that Hamas spokesmen should stop their open verbal threats against Israel. "The enemy could exploit these threats to convince the world that it is in danger," Yusef said, "and that this is why it launched a war as a preemptive blow to destroy all the military potential of the parties that represent a threat for [Israel's] security and existence."
Some of the Hamas claims have evoked ridicule even within Gaza. On January 31, a Hamas military spokesman took part in a mass event at which Hamas paraded what it claimed was its newest battle tank based on the IDF's Merkava Mk-4. The excited MC shouted repeatedly statements such as, "Dying for Allah is our greatest wish!" and "We are preparing for the day when we meet the Israeli tanks – let the locally-produced vehicle move forward!"
However, in fact, the purported armored vehicle was merely a wooden copy of the Israeli tank – as was duly noted by many within Gaza.
"I hope the Palestinian political and military factions will show restraint and discipline in all their statements," Yusef pontificated at Hamas. "Speak wisely. There is no need for exaggerations."
The main threat touted by Hamas in recent months has been its tunnel network leading from Gaza to the western Negev. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) have released videos of their members either working on or passing through tunnels. In addition, the deaths of nearly a dozen terrorists while digging tunnels over the past month have been widely publicized.