Hamas stages military exercises to test Gaza readiness
AFP, , Wednesday 23 Mar 2016

Hamas staged major military exercises Tuesday to test its readiness in the event of another Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which has been ravaged by three assaults since 2008.

The exercises involving 1,000 police and emergency services personnel were not meant to be seen as an "announcement of war", said a spokesman for the Islamist movement's interior ministry.

For the duration of the exercises, however, a state of emergency was observed in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, bordering Israel in the north, and Jabalia farther to the south.

The media was barred from approaching the area, but loud explosions could be heard from a distance, with hospitals and schools placed on alert.

Israel launched three wars on the Gaza Strip since 2008, including a devastating 50-day offensive in 2014.

The Palestinian enclave remains under an Israeli occupation blockade.

The story was edited by Ahram Online.