A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending December 17, 2004:

Karni Tunnel Designed to Reach into Israel‘s Western Negev


10 December: Round about 400 arms smuggling tunnels linking Egyptian Sinai to Palestinian Gaza under the Philadelphi border route have been unearthed and destroyed in the last couple of years by Israeli forces. But last Monday, December 6, an entirely new Palestinian passage was struck for a different function. This one pointed towards Israel.

The discovery cost the life of a 20-year old soldier from the IDF canine unit, Master Sgt. Nadav Kudinsky, and that of his sniffer dog who led the force to its target.

Unlike the rough and ready burrows from Sinai to the Gaza Strip or the bomb craters sunk under Israeli positions, the Karni Tunnel was built to last by competent engineers.

Finished, the project would have run 500-600 meters, headed under the electronic security fence marking the Gaza border and coming out deep inside Israeli territory. Five meters high, it was planned to carry complete units of terrorists undetected from the Gaza Strip under IDF border posts and watchtowers back and forth for repeated attacks against the surrounding Israeli towns of Sderot, Ofakim, Netivot and Ashkelon – site of the national electricity center and Israel’s only Mediterranean oil port.

This device was the centerpiece of Hamas’ long-term planning for maintaining its terrorist campaign against Israel from the Gaza Strip after the territory was turned over to Palestinian control.

It was discovered as Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah candidate for Palestinian Authority chairman, and prime minister Ahmed Qureia were sitting in a Damascus hotel trying to persuade Hamas leaders Khaled Mashel and Abu Marzuk to accept a limited ceasefire for the January 9 Palestinian election. They were firmly rebuffed.

Three days later, Thursday, December 9, the Palestinian tunnels’ godfather, Jemal Abu Semadana, escaped with injuries from an Israeli air strike. The Karni Tunnel is unlikely to be his last project.


Top Gaza General Leads Combined Palestinian Force in Rafah Crossing Assault


12 December: A ton and a half of high explosives smashed into the Israeli military compound at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, killing five Israeli soldiers and injuring 6. The blast erupted from a secret 800-meter long tunnel, followed by long salvos of Palestinian mortar and gunfire to make sure there were no survivors and to impede rescue operations. debkafile‘s military sources report that this attack was no run-of-the-mill Palestinian terror attack such as Israel has endured for decades, but a meticulously-planned military operation in which a battalion-scale force was deployed.

No single terrorist group, whether Hamas or Fatah, would have been capable of an action on this scale, nor would their operatives have commanded the logistical, intelligence and financial resources to carry it through. Who orchestrated the assault and timed the explosions and the mortar fire?

This question jars harshly amid the new wave of optimism over the prospects of peace and the apparent decline in terrorist attacks gripping top-level Israeli politicians. The fact that Palestinian fighting elements are constantly improving methods, regrouping and learning from past mistakes is damped down by the euphoric atmosphere generated by the impending entry of dovish Labor to the Sharon coalition and the high hopes riding on Mahmoud Abbas’ expected election.

But Sunday night, all the Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip proved they could work together under a single commander. debkafile‘s military sources name him as 62-year old Khan Younes-based Palestinian brigadier general Saib Ajez, a veteran officer of the moribund commando-trained Palestinian Liberation Army. He has 20,000 men under arms at his disposal. The rank and file are members of the Palestinian General Security Service, but their disciplined hard core is made up of Fatah, Hamas and Jihad Islami units in Rafah, Deir el Balah and Khan Younes. The attack is his way of saying that, even if Abbas is elected in the West Bank, Suleiman continues his conversations in Cairo, Sharon builds a new government and pulls every last Israeli out of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian war will not be touched. It will go on in Gaza, inevitably ignite the West Bank and, even if the Israeli army quits every last inch of Palestinian-claimed land, subterranean passages burrowed under the borders and security fences will carry Palestinian warfare into Israel’s heartland. General Ajez has undertaken the mission of carrying on Yasser Arafat’s legacy.


US Warns Egypt and Israel of Al Qaeda Strike: Chemical or Marine Terror Possible


14 December: At the beginning of December, Washington warned Jerusalem and Cairo of a planned major al Qaeda attack in one of their cities – possibly even with chemical weapons. In addition, the Americans and the British warned Israel and Egypt to beware of large-scale maritime strikes in the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aqaba, the Red Sea or the Suez Canal. One possible method is the familiar one of suicides aboard speedboats crammed with explosives ramming merchant vessels and oil tankers; but another way could be to hijack vessels and scuttle them in the Suez Canal to block the international waterway. This stratagem would create international havoc. Even if it failed, marine insurance premiums in these waterways would rise and sea freight rates would shoot up on the routes from China to the West.

Washington issued its warning after analyzing the October 7 al Qaeda attack on three Sinai resorts in which 34 people died and its aftermath.

It was noted that Egyptian security has not managed to lay hands on al Qaeda’s Sinai Peninsula lair or prevent it from being strengthened in recent weeks with a manpower infusion. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources also reveal that Saud Hamid al-Utaibi was appointed new al Qaeda commander in Saudi Arabia largely thanks to his expertise in marine terror. Al-Utaibi’s exceptional operational capabilities stood out in his latest operation on dry land – namely against the December 6 raid on the US consulate in the Red Sea town of Jeddah. It owed its success as much to its military precision and accurate inside and undercover work, as to the large gaps in Saudi intelligence.

Looking at al Qaeda’s Jeddah consulate attack and the December 12 Palestinian Rafah tunnel blast six days later, experts on terrorist tactics are gaining the impression that Islamic and Arab terrorist organizations are beginning to move away from the lone suicide bomber format; they seem to be advancing toward deploying larger operational units using standard military methods as well as applying superior intelligence to gain the great advantage of surprise.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email