Israeli sources said Hamas exploited the chaos to smuggle thousands of
weapons and explosives from Sinai, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the destruction of the wall was
planned by Hamas for several weeks in an attempt to replenish its raw
material stockpile for rockets and missiles.
Egypt was informed of Hamas's plans to destroy the border wall, the
sources said. They said that hours before the bombings Egypt rushed hundreds
of troops to the Gaza border.
The United Nations reported that more than 300,000 Palestinians streamed
into Sinai on Wednesday. The 12-kilometer wall along the Sinai-Gaza
border was breached in at least 17 places by Hamas forces.
Palestinian sources said Hamas planned the destruction of the border
wall since at least October 2007. They said Hamas operatives conducted
nightly missions to weaken the supports of the wall and identify spots to
On late Jan. 22, Hamas border guards, informed of an imminent explosion,
were ordered to stay away from the wall. Hours after the early-morning
explosions, Hamas sent bulldozers to widen the breaches.
"I can predict that the next time there will be 500,000 Gazans who will
come to Erez to enter Israel," Ahmed Yusef, the adviser to Hamas Prime
Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Israel Radio on Thursday.
Many Palestinians traveled to El Arish, the capital of Sinai, for food,
cooking gas and building supplies. By the afternoon, shops in El Arish and
Rafah had run out of supplies, sold at about one-third the price of those in
the Gaza Strip. Most of the Palestinians were said to have returned to the
Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, Palestinians, many of them in cars, continued to stream
into Egypt. But Egyptian border guards, on alert for the prospect that tens
of thousands of young Palestinians planned to resettle in Cairo, sought to
stop the flow and scuffled with the infiltrators. At the same time, the
Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced that the Rafah border terminal would
"The Egyptians are deployed along the border between Gaza and Egypt,"
the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. "It is their responsibility to ensure
that the border operates properly, in accordance with the signed agreements.
Israel expects the Egyptians to solve the problem."