Since Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Palestinian terrorist organizations based there have increased their rocket attacks on Israeli communities in the Western Negev, firing more than 1,000 Kassam rockets at Israeli civilians. In addition, the terrorists have stepped up their arms smuggling operations via tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing in more than 30 tons of high explosives.
Between Israel’s disengagement from Gaza last August and November 15, 2006, 1,201 Kassam artillery rockets have hit Israeli population centers adjacent to the Gaza Strip. These rockets include improved, long-range weapons which can reach the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, more than 13 km. (8 miles) from the Gaza border. So far seven Israelis, one foreign worker, and two Palestinian civilians have been killed in Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, and more than 100 persons have been wouinded.
Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin, in a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on 14 November, noted the following quantities of arms smuggled by terrorist groups into the Gaza Stript since the Disengagement:
- 33 tons of military-grade high explosives
- 20,000 assault rifles
- 3,000 Pistols
- 6,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition
- 38 long-range Kassam missiles
- 12 shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft guided missiles
- 95 anti-tank rocket launchers
- 410 anti-tank rockets
- 20 precision-guided Anti-Tank Missiles
In addition, between $50 miilion-$70m. in cash has been smuggled into Gaza in order to finance the Hamas terrorist operations.
Terrorist Attacks and Suicide Bombings
The Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza have lately intensified their attempts to carry out large-scale attacks against Israeli population centers. One tactic recently used is to exploit Israel's humanitarianism by infiltrating terrorists pretending to be Palestinians entering Israel to receive medical treatment. In one such case, on March 7, 2006, Samih Haddad , 21, a resident of Zeitun in the Gaza Strip, was arrested at the Erez crossing while trying to enter Israel using counterfeit medical documents for medical treatment at an Israeli clinic. During questioning he admitted that he had been recruited by the Islamic Jihad, which provided him with the false medical documents and instructed him to infiltrate into Israel, where he would receive an automatic weapon in order to carry out an attack.
Another tactic being used is the exploitation of the peaceful border between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai in order to infiltrate terrorists from Gaza into Israel for suicide attacks. For example, on February 8, 2006, two Islamic Jihad terrorists from the Gaza Strip were arrested in the Negev. One was a 17-year-old would-bel suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest; and other was his escort. They had infiltrated Israel via the Sinai in order to carry out a suicide bombing against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem.
In another thwarted infiltration, on June 11, 2006, two Palestinian terrorists from Gaza were caught as they were attempting to cross the Israeli-Egyptian border south of Gaza. One terrorist, Ibrahim Majdoub, had been dispatched by the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) to murder Israeli soldiers near Tel Aviv, hide their bodies in an orchard, and then fax their documents to the PRC in Gaza so it could claim they were abducted and negotiate concessions. The other terrorist, Muhammed Assan, was to carry out a suicide gun-and-grenade attack in an Israeli city.
Exploitation of Civilians
In addition to their cynical tactic of using Palestinian civilians as human shields by firing rockets from densely populated areas, Palestinian terrorists are now increasingly mobilizing civilians in order to protect themselves from Israeli counterterrorist operations. In one recent example, on November 3, 2006, a group of terrorists was discovered hiding in the revered al-Nasr Mosque in Beit Hanoun. When Israeli troops surrounded the mosque and called upon the terrorists to surrender, they were met with gunfire. Soon, a procession of about 200 Muslim women, veiled and wearing traditional dress, arrived at the mosque, having been summoned by the terrorists inside. The terrorists then escaped by mingling with the women, some of them even donning women's clothing.
Another such event occurred on November 18, minutes after the IDF warned residents of Beit Lahiya that a counterterrorist strike was about to be carried out against the home of Muhammad Baroud, commander of the PRC’s Kassam rocket operations. The IDF issued the warning to prevent civilian casualties during the impending operation. Baroud quickly summoned hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children, and had them surround the building. The IDF counterterrorist operation had to be cancelled due to the proximity of the civilians - demonstrating vividly that the Palestinians know that Israel values their lives more than the Palestinian terrorists do.