The Philadelphi Warren

Last November Belmont Club reported on the scope of the Palestinian’s subterranean war along the “Philadelphi Route”, the border between Gaza and Egypt controlled by the Israeli Defense Force. While tunnels are typically used for smuggling of weapons, ammunition, drugs and terrorists, the IDF believed a tunnel pointed at one of their outposts in Rafah collapsed before it could be used in an attack.

This Sunday, Palestinian terrorists succeeded in using a tunnel to strike at Israeli soldiers. Five Israeli-Arab Bedouin soldiers were killed and six wounded after two suicide bombers (a curious waste of manpower, why no remote detonation?) set off a massive amount of explosives underneath an IDF base.

The attack began at 5:30 yesterday (Sunday) evening when a tremendous explosion was heard under an IDF outpost astride Israel’s border with Egypt, on the line known as the Philadelphi Route. Two suicide terrorists blew themselves up, detonating well over a ton of explosives inside a tunnel they had dug under the outpost. The tunnel partially collapsed, bringing part of the outpost down with it. Two soldiers in their room, as well as a soldier on guard duty on a tower, were buried under the earth and rubble, and others were hurt as well.

Two Palestinian terrorists then attacked the outpost from another angle, killing two soldiers and wounding several others before the troops were able to respond. One of the wounded soldiers killed a terrorist, and another was forced to flee empty-handed just as he tried to snatch away the body of one of the dead soldiers. All the while, and during the ensuing hours of ongoing rescue efforts above the collapsed tunnel, mortar shells were fired at the outpost. The onslaught impeded the rescue efforts; one soldier was finally found in serious condition after being trapped for two hours in the exploded tunnel.

The attack in Rafah was a joint operation between Hamas and a Fatah group run by the brother of recently deceased Yasser Arafat, Mussa, who is an official in the Palestinian Authority. The internal power struggle between competing members of the vast array of terror groups united by the Palestinian Authority continues to play out.

The Fatah Hawks are identified with Mussa Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority’s military intelligence mechanism…The Fatah Hawks’ involvement in yesterday’s attack with Hamas was designed to convey a message of strength on the part of Mussa Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas and the new Palestinian leadership. Nevertheless, spokesmen for the Fatah Hawks hurried after yesterday’s attack to clarify that the group was not operating outside of Fatah and was not challenging the PA leadership. The spokesman added, however, that at some point in the future, Abbas would have to address the question of how to appease them and their leaders.

The Associated Press notes Hezbollah’s involvement in Palestinian terrorism. The marriage between Palestinian terrorist and Hezbollah is a match made in martyr’s heaven. Hezbollah provides its professionalism, contacts, experience, wealth and vast resources, while the Palestinians provide the cannon fodder, human detonators and experience in constructing tunnels. It should be noted that Hezbollah is a Shiite organization, while Hamas, Al Aqsa, Fatah and the majority of the Palestinian terror groups are Sunni. This is further evidence that a common enemy makes for strange bedfellows.

Hamas videotaped the attack, a method used in the past by Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, who have been emerging as the main mentors of Palestinian militants in recent months. Hezbollah fought Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon until Israel withdrew in May 2000.

Hezbollah is involved in 70 percent of Palestinian attacks, giving the militants their know-how, funding and Islamic ideology, an Israeli military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, Zohar said the tunnels “are a purely Palestinian method.”

IDF sources state that the Palestinian tunnels are a “strategic problem for Israel” as they are difficult to discover, negating Israel’s superior technological edge in its war against Palestinian terror. As the search for tunnels in the Korean DMZ and the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan during the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom demonstrated, caves and tunnels are hard to discover. The military technology to do so currently does not exist, and the volatile border region of Rafah is no place for scientists to casually search for them.

Under ideal conditions, high-tech tools can reveal the location and structure of underground cavities by measuring subtle changes in the force of gravity, seismic waves and electrical resistance. “It’s a real easy job if you have a bunch of graduate students and you can walk around on the ground taking measurements,” said Antony Fraser-Smith, a Stanford University geophysicist .almost all U.S. reconnaissance tools – including radar and communications interception devices – are built for detecting something. Caves are all about the absence of something.

In response to the bombing in Rafah, Israel has struck back at Hamas, firing at suspected weapons factories and depots, as well as attempting an assassination of a Hamas leader in Damascus.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa and various factions of Fatah are attempting to sabotage any agreement on a cease-fire between the Palestinian Authority and Israel prior to upcoming elections. Their goals, as well as the goals of many in the Palestinian Authority, are continuing the Intafada and the destruction of Israel, not coexistence based on a two state solution. The security fence has proven to be very effective at preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from attacking Israel. As tunneling is beginning to show promise and has negated Israel’s accustomed military and technological advantages, we can expect to see more attacks like this in the future.

Recommended Reading:

Arthur Chrenkoff has an excellent post on silly comparisons between Israel’s fight against the Palestinians and the Holocaust. A recent poll shows a majority of Germans believe Israel’s war against the Palestinians is comparable to the Holocaust. Ignorance about the history of fascism and totalitarianism are major impediments in our fight against their modern day successors.

While you’re at it, don’t miss his latest installment of Good News from Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tuesday Morning

    Out and about in the Blogosphere: =================================================== the fourth rail: The Philadelphi Warren Tunnelling in Israel by Hamas and Fatah is reason for concern. The use of tunnel is nothing new, as “guerrilla type warfare” c…

  • Justin B says:

    Let’s hope that this does not turn into a contest of the future PA leaders trying to one-up each other with who is the most effective terrorist. Again, our biggest hope is that the common people that will vote in the election will A. Have a candidate that wants peace and B. Want peace enough to vote for said candidate. There has to be a moderate in the mix, but I am afraid that reality is if anyone is a moderate they would not be anywhere in a position to lead the PA.

  • Justin B says:

    Almost forgot… Isreal has my full support with assassinating anyone and everyone that supports these type of actions. It is about time that the US flat out said, “We stand with Isreal.” This election is the PA’s last chance to make peace or they deserve ***NOTHING*** and should not be bargained with any further. Let France, the UN, and the PA express outrage all they want, but Isreal deserves some peace and security.


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