GAZA CITY ø Israel's military assesses that Palestinian insurgents
maintain between five and 10 tunnels to smuggle weapons from Egypt to the
Israeli military sources said Palestinian insurgents have lost as many
as eight tunnels since October in Israeli operations in the
southern city of Rafah. The tunnels, some of which are located 80 meters
below the ground, connect the Palestinian refugee camp in Rafah to the
adjacent Sinai Peninsula controlled by Egypt.
On Dec. 23, an Israeli combined task force raided dozens of homes in the
Rafah camp in search for Palestinian weapons tunnels. The force was said to
have found and destroyed a Palestinian tunnel.
The Israeli operation encountered heavy Palestinian resistance. Eight
Palestinians were killed and 40 were injured in clashes with Israeli
infantry forces, backed by
tanks and helicopters.
A senior Israeli military source said Palestinian insurgents linked to
the Palestinian Authority regard the tunnels as their lifeline for weapons
and drugs, among the biggest sources of revenue in the Gaza Strip. The
source said the insurgents have at least five and no more than 10 tunnels in
Hours later, Hamas gunners from the Beit Hanoun area fired two
Kassam-class short-range missiles toward Israeli communities in the northern
Gaza Strip. One of the missiles slammed into a house and two people were
In the West Bank, Israeli authorities announced the capture of 22 Hamas
operatives suspected of killing 10 Israelis
in shooting ambushes over the last two years. They said the Hamas cell
received more than $80,000 in funding from the organization's command in
Syria to finance a network of operatives.
The Hamas cell had planned to kill and decapitate Israeli soldiers in
the Ramallah area to enable the insurgency group to negotiate the release of
Hamas detainees in Israeli prisons.
"The infrastructure had tens of thousands of dollars at its disposal,
which it used to acquire war materiel, vehicles, cellular
telephones, etc. and to disburse to its members," an Israeli government
The Israeli operation was described by an Israeli military source as
seeking to stop Palestinian insurgents from renewing tunnel operations in
Rafah. The source said military intelligence had received information that
insurgents were trying to refurbish tunnels destroyed in a
previous Israeli operation in October.
Israeli troops raided homes at the edge of the refugee camp near the
Egyptian border in a search for tunnels. Palestinian sources said several
homes were damaged by Israeli fire.
Earlier, two Israeli officers ø a company commander and his deputy ø
and two Palestinian combatants were killed in a shootout in the central Gaza
Strip near the Israeli knot of communities called Gush Katif. Hours later,
in what appeared to be an unrelated incident, an Israeli vehicle was
attacked by at least two insurgents near an Israeli air force base north of
Eilat. Nobody was injured.