Hamas is utilizing the hudna cease-fire to build over 1000
Kassam rockets, a senior IDF officer told reporters on
Monday. As a result, some analysts say, the next phase in the
conflict may be very intense.
The raw materials are smuggled through the tunnels underneath
Rafah, where the Egyptian border is separated from
Palestinian Gaza by a narrow strip patrolled by the IDF. From
there, the materials are driven northward to Khan Yunis or to
It there, said the senior officer, that Hamas is working on a
new version of the Kassam that could reach "15 or up to 20km
in range," putting cities like Ashkelon and Netivot within
The tunnels server primarily to smuggle contraband goods
which can be sold at a handsome profit in Gaza. Some of the
more lucrative tunnels whose "engineers" do quite well from
the profits from material smuggled under the Egyptian-Gaza
border, are believed to be 80 meters underground. At that
depth it is very hard to detect them even using the
sophisticated technology that the IDF employs.
While the PA security have not disarmed the terrorist groups,
the IDF says that the PA has exerted a concerted effort to
reduce the level of incitement against Israel and to prevent
terror attacks. Nonetheless, the IDF says that it has
registered 85 attacks against Israel in the Gaza Strip since
the declaration of the cease-fire 20 days ago. This is a drop
of more than half in the rate that has prevailed over the
past three years.
The Palestinians have managed to reduce the number of attacks
to an all-intifadah low, however, they have "not gotten to
the root of the problem," which is the disarmament of
Palestinian militants, said the senior officer.
The IDF feeds the PA intelligence tips from time to time
hoping that it will act on them. "That they dealt with
[inciting] graffiti and are getting traffic cops back on the
streets is nice but the main problem for us is not traffic
but weapons smuggling," he said.
Negotiation has so far served as the chief Palestinian modus
operandi for preventing attacks, he said. Sometimes "they
arrest a militant under the most comfortable conditions
possible and release him," within hours. The longest a
Palestinian militant has been held, according to the senior
source is four days.
Nevertheless, the perception among IDF ranks that the
Palestinian Authority possess the force to disarm and arrest
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists
is also giving way to doubt about PA strength.
When asked whether the balance of weapons in the Gaza Strip
is tilted towards the rejectionist groups or the PA, a
Brigade commander in Gaza hesitated for a moment, and then
noted that especially following the hudna and the accelerated
pace of weapons smuggling into Gaza, the rejectionist groups
likely have the upper hand.
"There have been so many arms smuggled in that we can tell by
the sheer number that we capture that there must be much more
that we don't [capture]," he said.
Security sources have for months been publicly saying that
the PA boasts a force of 20,000 armed security personnel in
Gaza alone. "They are armed, have enough jeeps, cars, enough
ammunition, and enough courts to arrest those men and take
them to court," said one officer.
But in private the IDF, gives figures much closer to those
that Palestinian security chiefs themselves give: or about
12,000, sometimes less. Many of these men are not nearly as
motivated as their Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa
The IDF officer, who works intimately with his Palestinian
counterparts in the field, admitted that in an all out battle
that would likely devolve into a civil war, the rejectionist
groups could defeat the PA.
"The PA is aware of this," he said, "and so the challenge for
the Palestinians is to disarm the militant groups peacefully.
The PA believes that it can only solve [the issue of the
rejectionist groups] by including Hamas in [a future]
Standing at a site once considered the most notorious
checkpoint in the Gaza Strip, the IDF officer, said of the
steady flow of traffic through the Katif junction. "That is a
great example of how to implement separation.
"Gaza is a particularly good place to observe separation at
work. It has a clearly demarcated and operational security
fence. This backs efforts made by both sides to prevent
terrorists from leaving the Strip," he said.
He noted that settlers travel on a bridge which bypasses the
road, reducing to almost zero the settler-Palestinian
friction, one of the Gaza Division's main goals.
While the threat is certainly grave, no serious observer
could have failed to anticipate that Hamas would use the
quiet to rearm and reorganize. The assessment of the
politicians was apparently that they could not effectively
resist the pressure from US President Bush, and the hope that
the quiet will gather its own momentum and be extended. It is
of course much too early to see if this will happen or not.
It should be recalled that the hudna was declared by the
Palestinians among themselves and involved no transaction