debkafile’s senior military sources: Most Palestinian arms smuggling tunnels located in W. Gaza – out of range of IDF’s Philadelphi operation
Senior IDF officers told debkafile Thursday, Oct. 19, that the 13 Palestinian smuggling tunnels unearthed this week by Israeli units in the Philadelphi-Rafah sector were small change. Most of the active tunnels are now located to the west of this border sector. They are used by Palestinian terrorist organizations for moving contraband arms into the Gaza Strip by sea and land, despite the efforts of Israeli warships to intercept the flock of small vessel sailing from the northern coast of Egyptian Sinai, before they unload their cargo of weapons and explosives on the Gazan shore.
In any case, Israeli tunnel-hunters led by IDF Bedouin scout units are confined to the 5 km between Philadelphi and Rafah, while the tunnels dug under a 17 km-strip to the West, the former locations of Israeli Mediterranean settlements, operate unhindered. These IDF officers also warn that Palestinian gunrunners have dug so many subterranean shafts – tens if not hundreds – that barely a week after any Israeli offensive, they will be full operational. To destroy them all would necessitate Israel’s permanent military reoccupation of the entire network of smuggling routes.
The general assessment of these Israeli officers is that the Philadelphi operation is another of the government’s half-measures to impress on the public that a tough crackdown is afoot to stem the flow of dangerous weaponry to Palestinian terrorists. The Olmert government cannot let the army go all-out against the accumulating menace without admitting that Israel’s Sept. 2005 evacuation from the Gaza Strip’s Egyptian border was a grave strategic blunder, which the incumbents enthusiastically executed as Ariel Sharon’s top ministers. The defense ministry is in a similar quandary, reluctant to acknowledge that the security plan drawn up by the ministerial political coordinator Brig. Amos Gilead has broken down over Egypt’s failure to police the border.
A similar lack of resolve in Jerusalem is letting the security situation on the Lebanese border deteriorate out of hand.
In these circumstances, the talks Israel’s infrastructure minister Binyamin Eliezer held with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Thursday, Oct. 19, could not be expected to do much good. The former defense minister was officially assigned with seeking Egyptian help to obtain the release of Gilead Shalit from Hamas’ hands and curb Palestinian arms smuggling through their territory to Gaza.
Once again, Israel’s policy-makers refused to look at the hard realities, the foremost of which is that the traffic across Egypt’s Gaza border has run out of control and that Mubarak has lost any clout he once had with the leaders of extremist Hamas, Jihad Islami, the Popular Resistance Committees and elements of Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades. The fate of Gilead Shalit is out of his hands.
Gaza is now ruled, according to senior IDF officers, by Hamas which has swallowed up most of the local Palestinian terror groups and a mixed bag of Syrian and Iranian military instructors, Hizballah officers and radical Palestinian gang chiefs who have joined al Qaeda.