Massive Israeli assault on Hamas smuggling tunnels, Egyptian ultimatum to Hamas

Wednesday, Jan. 7, Cairo presented Hamas with an ultimatum to reply to Egypt’s ceasefire proposals by 6 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 8. That night, Israel launched a massive air and artillery assault on Hamas arms smuggling tunnels running under the Philadelphi route along the Egyptian border and adjoining houses in Rafah. Leaflets dropped in advance by the Israeli air force warned the 30,000 dwellers in the targeted region to leave their homes.
Hamas’ Southern Brigade is deployed in this strategic sector of the southern Gaza Strip under the command of a high-ranking Hamas commander called Al-Attar. Its operatives tried and failed to stem the flight from the Yibne and Block O Rafah refugee camps and Rafah’s Tel Sultan
debkafile‘s military sources report that Israel has been pounding this Hamas lifeline for arms supplies and reinforcements by air and sea for days. Dozens of tunnels were demolished but enough of the system remained for Hamas to restore it if given the chance. With the new assault Israel is determined to destroy the entire network for good.
For Hamas-Damascus and Hamas-Gaza alike, bowing to the Egyptian ultimatum and accepting the proposal intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman put before its representatives in Cairo Tuesday would be seen as a surrender to the Israeli Defense Forces.
The ultimatum may have been coordinated with the Israeli assault on the tunnels.
Israeli defense ministry official Amos Gilad and Olmerts envoy Yoram Turbovitch fly to Cairo Thursday to start talks on Egypt’s ceasefire proposals.
debkafile also discloses that the Israeli prime minister sent his political adviser Shalom Turjman to Washington Wednesday night.
Earlier, the Israeli defense cabinet decided to continue the military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip while also discussing the ceasefire proposals received from Egypt.
A growing number of cabinet ministers advocated expanding the military operation against Hamas and bringing it to the point of resolution, supporting the view held by prime minister Ehud Olmert and the military high command.

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