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Friday, October 10, 2003

IDF provides background information

"Operation Root Canal" to uncover and destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels in Gaza

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israeli troops on Friday were carrying out a massive search operation to uncover and destroy weapon smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday after information indicated that militants intended to up the ante by acquiring anti-aircraft missiles.

Palestinians reported three people were killed, including a 12-year-old boy, in fierce battles that erupted.

As part of the operation called "root canal," tanks and engineering crews, including specially trained sniffer dogs, entered the Rafah area along the internationally recognized Israeli-Egyptian border overnight. The area is known as a hotbed for terrorist activity.

Intense fighting erupted, with Palestinians activating dozens of explosive devices, firing anti-tank missiles, throwing dozens of grenades and opening fire with automatic weapons at troops, the army said.

Israeli troops backed by helicopters returned fire and demolished three structures from which fire had been directed against them.

"The city of Rafah is the main venue for smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip," the army said.

The area of Rafah has been called a "city of tunnels" for smuggling. Since the beginning of the year, more than 30 weapons-smuggling tunnels have been uncovered. Since the beginning of the outbreak of trouble in September 2000, more than 70 tunnels have been found.

But now the terrorist groups are aspiring to add more advanced weapons to their arsenals, security sources said.

The terrorist infrastructure is attempting to "raise the bar" by attempting to acquire anti-aircraft missiles, by carrying them through the tunnels, a security source said.

They also want to beef up their capabilities by adding more rocket propelled grenades, mortar shells, standard explosive materials, assault rifles and ammunition, the source said.

The knowledge, capabilities and technology that is in the Gaza Strip usually finds its way into the West Bank, he added.

According to security sources, weapons from a third country are deposited on the Egyptian side of the border where they are picked up by Palestinians and dragged on sleds through the tunnels.

Among those smuggling weapons are Ahmed Jibril''s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which coordinates its smuggling efforts with "Iranian bodies" attempting to "establish and develop a terror infrastructure in Israel and the territories and especially the Gaza Strip," the sources said.

The sources pointed out that many residents of the area are opposed to the tunnels but that it is a lucrative business for those who partake. Allowing their homes to be used as cover for a tunnel exit, a resident can earn as much as $1,000 a month.

Even if the Israeli army discovers the tunnel exit and destroys the building, the owner is provided with a new residence.

Security sources estimate that dozens of rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, hundreds of kilograms of explosives, hundreds of automatic rifles and tens of thousands of bullets have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip so far this year.