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Analysis: Destruction of smuggling tunnel shows Hamas tried to deceive Egypt

A Hamas 'terror tunnel' bombed by Israeli fighter jets on January 13, 2018.
IDF

The destruction of a tunnel that penetrated the Gaza Strip into Israel, and from there to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula will probably have strategic implications: it could disrupt the process of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah facilitated by Egypt, and could cause Hamas and Islamic Jihad to decide that they should attack Israel and ignite escalation before losing all the tunnels they have dug.

For several months now, since Israel uncovered two other terrorist tunnels penetrating its territory from the Gaza Strip, it seems that Hamas has been hesitant to act in light of the apparent process in which Israel destroys the attack tunnels that are intended to cross into its territory and serve it in the next conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The tunnel under the Kerem Shalom border crossing was a fraud, not only against the Egyptians but also against Israel. Hamas apparently estimated that the IDF would not imagine that it was digging a tunnel under the Gaza Strip's only life-line and thus endangering the welfare of the population.

Hamas's military wing apparently built this tunnel to carry out strategic weapons transfers, probably heavy and accurate missiles, that would be sent from Iran via Sinai to the Gaza Strip and used by Hamas in the next confrontation with Israel.


But this is not the only purpose of the tunnels. Another goal was to penetrate Israeli territory and to attack the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, Kerem Shalom and Shlomit, and perhaps also to blow up the crossing in the Israeli section of the "Let me die with the Philistines" method.

Hamas apparently read the story of Samson in the Bible and misinterpreted it, but the conclusion was that they were willing to sacrifice the welfare and vital needs of the residents of Gaza for the "strategic surprise" they had prepared for Israel in the Kerem Shalom area.

Those who have been silent about the moderation Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has shown so far have received an answer. The extremist terrorist who was released by Israel in the 2011 prisoner-exchange deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has until now displayed restraint as the head of the military wing and as the leader of Hamas, and it was nothing more than a cover for his intentions to carry out a murderous attack in Israel and circumvent the means used by Egypt to sever the connection between Islamic State in Sinai to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza.

The exposure of the tunnel will apparently make it clear to Egypt that Hamas has tried to deceive them.

(AP Photo/Prime Minister Office)

It is well known that the Gaza Strip border with Sinai operates more than a thousand smuggling tunnels, which are used primarily to smuggle goods, but also to smuggle arms and people from the Gaza Strip into Sinai. These smuggling operations have also been used by the Islamic State branch in Sinai, and therefore the Egyptians took several measures to sever the connection between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.

These measures included the destruction of tunnels and the flow of sewage into them, and recently also the digging of a deep trench into which seawater has been pumped, cutting off a large part of the tunnels that were dug to a considerable depth.

But the Egyptians apparently did not think that Hamas and other Palestinian groups would dare to dig a tunnel under Israeli territory that would come out in Sinai and serve them.

- Same lady, different cloak -

This was also true of Egyptian intelligence officials who negotiated with Hamas on reconciliation. For the purpose of these negotiations, the Egyptians were prepared to ignore the fact that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt were actually the same lady in a different cloak: Hamas, Gaza and the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood movement that grew up in the hands of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees the Muslim Brotherhood in his country as an existential threat, but was prepared to reconcile with Hamas in order to prevent Palestinian aid from Gaza being transferred to the Islamic State, who has fought the Egyptian army in Sinai and carried out murderous terror attacks.

Hamas pretended that it wanted reconciliation and was ready to respond to the Egyptian demands because it was in distress. It is not receiving aid from the Arab countries or from Europe, and its ties with Iran are still not yielding the desired results.

In addition, Hamas' new leadership in Gaza sees how the economic, social, and existential distress of Gazans is growing day by day, and therefore the organization has responded to all Egyptian demands and even ostensibly cut its ties with the Islamic State in Sinai.

Islamic State

Now it turns out that Hamas actually deceived them and made them promises -- it opened an underground route bypassing Sinai and the Islamic State. Hamas apparently did so in order to be able to receive strategic arms smuggling from Iran via the Red Sea and Sinai, but this had to be approved by the Islamic State, and this is also understood by the Egyptians.

It is reasonable to assume that following the exposure of the tunnel last night, they will also draw conclusions about Hamas, which apparently became their ally in the war against the Islamic State.

And the Israeli perspective must not be overlooked: On the road to Sinai, Hamas also prepared a strategic attack in Israel and cynically ignored the fact that Israel's response might be the closure of the only pipeline that the Gaza Strip has with the outside world. The Egyptians have not yet opened the Rafah crossing for regular passage of goods and people -- the passage of goods, fuel, and gas to the citizens of the Gaza Strip and people passes through Erez Crossing.

- The warning to Hamas -

The handling of the tunnel that was destroyed last night and this morning was done with sophistication aimed at preventing escalation. It is also possible that there was an intention not to interfere with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India. In any event, on Saturday night, a notice was published about the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods on Sunday. The announcement, ostensibly for no apparent reason, was intended to warn Hamas shortly before air force planes attacked the entrance shaft of a tunnel in the Palestinian Rafah area.

The reason for this is the desire to prevent deaths on the Palestinian side. If Hamas members were killed inside the tunnel that was bombed, we would now be in the midst of an escalation.

Said Khatib (AFP/File)

The strange announcement of the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing was also intended to draw the attention of the Gaza Strip and international elements to the fact that Hamas was endangering the only pipeline of life from the Gaza Strip for the operational-terrorist needs of its military wing.

It was also intended to prevent harm to un-involved civilians in the event of unexpected accidents during the destruction of the tunnel.

But everything went as planned: Air Force planes used heavy and highly accurate munitions to destroy the tunnel shaft on the Palestinian side, while other IDF forces, especially engineering and infantry, destroyed, by a special method, a "quiet system" the route of the tunnel passing through our territory.

There is no doubt that Hamas and Islamic Jihad understand now that not long ago they will lose all their underground assets. The Egyptians will also re-evaluate the relationship with Hamas in Gaza. These facts bring the possibility that the two major terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will initiate an escalation with Israel in the near future before they lose the ability to surprise us with a strategic attack.

Ron Ben-Yishai is a senior Israeli defense analyst. This article is published courtesy of Ynet.

Comments

(2)

This was never Taqiyya. El Sisi is not dumb. Excessive patience can b fatal.

Fascists always sacrifice their onw. A characteristic of fascism.

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