Iranian media is reporting that Hamas was gearing up for the “Al-Aqsa Storm” operation over the past four years, establishing an integrated command and control network and designing exercises under the banner of “Rukn Al-Shadid.”
According to the IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency, “Al-Aqsa Storm” signifies a new era of irregular warfare, marking Hamas’s shift towards hybrid warfare with Israel, adding that an examination of Hamas’ activities “over the past four years reveals their meticulous preparations for such operations, culminating in the final phase just a month before the operation’s commencement.”
In the same report, Tasnim said that, “Since 2020, Palestinian resistance groups have been coordinating the “Rukn Al-Shadid” joint exercises, conducting them annually with specific objectives and publicizing their efforts. Nevertheless, the Israeli security apparatus’s apparent confusion and surprise indicated that they have not been taking these exercises seriously.”
Tasnim claimed that the inaugural joint exercise of Palestinian resistance groups, titled Rukn Al-Shadid 1, was held on December 29, 2020. “Considering that the aspirations of Palestine and our beloved homeland extend from north to south, and our people’s suffering from injustice, siege, settlement construction, and aggression, and at a time when our sanctities are exposed to Judaization, desecration, and Zionist insolence, we in the Palestinian resistance factions are by the grace of God, devoted to our martyrs and captives, and we have not broken our vow to the people to pursue the path of resistance, jihad, and struggle,” the Joint Operations Room of Palestinian groups emphasized during the commencement of Rukn Al-Shadid 1.
This is the very point that the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei emphasized in his recent statements during the graduation ceremony of military university students. “When oppression and injustice exceed their limits, a storm will arise,” according to the Tasnim article.
The Tasnim article claimed that, “during the first ‘Rukn Al-Shadid’ drills, resistance fighters also engaged in joint training exercises that included coastal infiltration and amphibious operations using various kinds of sea mines,” which it noted, “almost exactly mirrored those taken by Hamas fighters in the early stages of their attack” on Israel.
Additionally, the same Tasnim article claimed that “a second exercise took place on December 26, 2021 and focused on crossing the barrier and border between the Gaza Strip and the occupied territories,” with a third exercise near the Gaza Strip’s border on December 28, 2022. “The emphasis of this drill was on rapid response, border crossing, and infiltration into Israeli military bases. It also simulated scenarios in which Israeli soldiers were captured, replicating previous operations,” the article claimed.
“The fourth and final exercise, Intense Pillar 19, occurred roughly a month before Al-Aqsa Storm operation on September 10, 2023. This exercise focused on coordination and readiness within the Palestinian resistance groups,” Tasnim said.