[Freemanlist2] Ron Ben-Yishai - Hamas digging tunnels for next battle

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Hamas digging tunnels for next battle
Movement takes advantage of PA infighting to reorganize, lay new 
infrastructure and collect improved weapons for next battle with IDF. 

Palestinian unity government bad news for Israel, whose hands are tied
Ron Ben-Yishai  YNET Published: 02.05.07, 15:41

While Gaza gun battles continue with full-force, Hamas has quickly been 
setting up its new military infrastructure for a serious confrontation with 
the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel has been following the construction with concern, but its hands are 
tied, if the IDF were to act against Hamas' infrastructure, it would be 
interpreted throughout the world as Israeli intervention on behalf of Fatah.

Hamas and its Iranian supporters have been taking advantage of this fact and 
have been sending members of Hamas' "operational force" to the streets to 
enforce Hamas' power.

A few thousand of these men have been fighting Palestinian President Mahmoud 
Abbas' security forces.

In the meantime, Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din el-Qasam Brigades, 
and Hamas' Murabitun militia have been laying down new military 

The work is being done in an organized, systematic manner on three levels: 
Digging combat tunnels, improving rocket performance and quantity, and 
collecting weapons, mainly antitank and antiaircraft missiles through 

The most complicated part of the reorganization is the combat tunnels, which 
are very similar to Hizbullah's "nature reserves" in southern Lebanon .

Unlike the latter however, which were mainly under-ground local bunkers that 
allowed Hizbullah fighters to launch Katyusha rockets and take cover from 
Israel Air Force bombings, the Gaza tunnel network will allow Hamas and 
Islamic Jihad fighters to carry out the combat from within.

The Gaza tunnels will allow mobility under ground to the expected points of 
battle with IDF forces entering the Strip, the fighters will be able to 
surface quickly, launch missiles or rockets and disappear only to surprise 
the IDF forces at another spot.

The tunnels are also meant to serve another purpose, namely to plant 
explosive devices at IDF entrance points, in order to detonate them and stop 
IDF forces from entering.

The tunnels uncovered by Palestinian security forces near the Erez crossing 
two weeks ago were meant for this purpose.

Fatah members rushed to announce that these tunnels were dug in order to 
assassinate President Abas and other Fatah officials, but it is more likely 
that these tunnels were meant for underground fighting between Hamas and the 

The tunnels are also meant to be used for infiltrating Israeli territory. 
The composition of the earth in the Strip makes digging easy, and allows for 
relatively stable tunnels. These tunnels give Hamas a real strategic 

Hamas is also focusing its attention on rockets, through information 
received from Hizbullah and Iran.

The IDF and Shin Bet believe that it won't be long until Hamas gets its 
hands on the ability to launch rockets and hit as far as Kiryat Gat and 
north of Ashkelon.

At the same time, efforts are being made to increase the size of the rockets 
from 5-7 kilograms (roughly 10-15 pounds) of explosives in today's Qassams 
to dozens of kilograms in Hamas-made Katyushas within up to a year.

Hamas has also been trying to obtain and produce more stable explosives. At 
the moment, a Qassam rocket becomes dormant just after a few days, since the 
home-made explosives break down chemically.

Therefore, Hamas has been working on new explosives that would prolong the 
shelf life of the new rockets. This would allow Hamas to store a greater 
number of rockets that could operate at a greater range against towns in the 
south and center of Israel when fighting begins.

The third field is the smuggling of large quantities of antitank and 
antiaircraft missiles through the Philadelphi route and the sea in order to 
use them against the IDF's armored tanks and vehicles.

Unity government dangerous

In the meantime, the infighting in Gaza is making it difficult for Israel to 
obtain quality intelligence in order to act against the evolving 

This fact became apparent last week when a suicide bomber from the Islamic 
Jihad blew himself up in Eilat and did not hide his intentions from his 
family or environment, but Shin Bet was still unable to locate him in time 
to foil the attack due to intelligence difficulties.

President Abbas is set to meet with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in 
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in order to reach an agreement on a democratic 
formula upon which a unity government could be established.

A long-term calm however, would still not solve Israel's dilemma, and would 
contrarily worsen it.

A Palestinian unity government would lead to the removal of international 
pressure on the Hamas government and the organization which would be 
presented by an 'honorable' Abbas would continue to strengthen politically 
and build its military infrastructure during the calm.

It is also likely that international pressure would be placed on Israel to 
negotiate with Abbas under the claim that he represents the unity 

Israel has no choice but to carefully walk between the drops, to push 
political pressures, to improve life quality in the West Bank as much as 
possible in order to strengthen Abbas' position and wait until it is time to 
perform the needed military route canal in Gaza - to destroy Hamas' military 
infrastructure and finally solve the smuggling problem along the Philadelphi 
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