Israel's military destroys 3 Palestinian tunnels

Special to World
Sunday, October 12, 2003

GAZA CITY Israel's military has destroyed three Palestinian tunnels employed for the smuggling of insurgents, weapons and explosives.

Israeli military sources said the tunnels were blown up by engineering units during a search-and-destroy operation in the southern Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border over the weekend. The sources said Egyptian authorities were notified of the operation and the destruction of the tunnels.

So far, 10 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli operation. Brig. Gen. Gad Shamni, commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, said the military destroyed four homes. Palestinian Authority officials said 45 homes were demolished.

The Israeli operation has taken place in Rafah, the Gaza Strip town that spreads into Egypt. Israel's military has confirmed the existence of at least 13 Palestinian tunnels. The entrances to the tunnels were said to have been concealed in homes in the refugee camp.

The sources said Palestinian insurgents loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat have used the tunnels to smuggle weapons, explosives and suicide bombers from Egypt. They said the tunnels were believed being prepared for the smuggling of Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and Sagger anti-tank missiles in the Gaza Strip.

A combined Israeli force of helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry and engineering units has been deployed for the operation, which began on Thursday. The sources said they expect the operation to last several more days.

On Sunday, the Israeli operation in Rafah continued on what military sources termed a smaller scale. Most of the force left the town on late Saturday.

Hours later, Palestinian gunners fired a Kassam-class short-range missile toward the nearby southern Israel city of Sderot. The missile landed on a road near the city and nobody was injured.

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