Jerusalem: The Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has an armed force to rival that of Israel's Lebanese foe Hezbollah, the head of the Shin Bet security service has said.

"Hamas has military capabilities almost of a state," a spokesman quoted Yoram Cohen as telling the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence on Wednesday.

"Some of its military capabilities are even better than Hezbollah's," he said.

He said that the Islamist group's armoury had been swollen by advanced weaponry smuggled into the coastal territory from Libya since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi, including shoulder-fired missiles.

Cohen said that Hamas had also developed a sophisticated local arms industry, using computerised lathes to produce rockets of ranges from four to 40 kilometres.

He said that it currently had 8,000 rockets.

Israel says that both Hamas and the Shiite Hezbollah receive support from Iran.

The Jewish state fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in 2006 that cost the lives of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

(Agencies)

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