November 4-5, 2008: Hamas renewed Qassam rocket fire against Israeli civilians living in the Negev throughout Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Hamas terrorists fired 46 Qassam rockets and 16 mortar shells at the western Negev region.
The rockets damaged several green houses in the western Negev. Two rockets landed in Ashkelon,one which hit a quiet neighborhood, and sent three people into shock and trauma.
This escalation in Palestinian rocket fire has been the most serious breach in the Hamas-Israel ceasefire to date. In addition to the massive rocket barrage, 21 Qassam rockets and 26 mortar shells have been fired at Israel during the past five months of the ceasefire.
The massive rocket attack came about when IDF Special Forces entered Gaza to blow up a tunnel dug by Hamas terrorists that was created in order to abduct Israeli soldiers. The tunnel’s end surfaced into a Gaza home, which the Palestinian terrorists blew up during the course of fighting with Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (IICC), reports that Hamas operatives have dug a large number of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza throughout the ceasefire. On October 28, 29 and November 2 the Palestinian media reported that about 20 tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Executive Force collapsed after stormy weather and heavy rainfall. According to Egyptian security sources, 13 tunnels were destroyed (Agence France Presse, November 3). Some of them had been dug under the cemetery in Rafah, and graves collapsed into the flooded tunnels (Quds Press), October 29).
In the middle of Sinai, Egyptian security forces uncovered an explosives cache containing eight rockets ready for smuggling into the Gaza Strip (Al-Khalij, October 30). Hamas propaganda ignores and even denies the continuing smuggling of large quantities of weapons into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels and sends foreign correspondents the false message that the tunnels are only used to smuggle civilian goods and are necessary because of Israel ‘s “siege” of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas smuggles weapons, money, terrorist operatives, foodstuffs, fuel and civilian and military equipment into the Gaza Strip from Egypt through the tunnels. Hamas oversees and to a great extent controls the industry. In the assessment of the IICC, there are several hundred tunnels running under the Philadelphi route, i.e., the Gaza-Egypt border. Rafah mayor Issa al-Nashar told both the Guardian and the Independent that there are about 400 tunnels, most of which are located in Rafah.
The tunnel industry is an important source of employment for Rafah residents as well as a source of income for Hamas and the tunnel contractors. It is estimated that thousands of workers and terrorist operatives are employed in digging the tunnels, operating them and smuggling. According to the British Independent newspaper, there are an estimated 6,000 workers in the industry. The profit from each tunnel is estimated at $30-$50,000 a month. The cost of digging a tunnel is estimated at $60-$70,000. Half of the amount is paid to the owners of the houses under which the tunnel openings are hidden and the other half buys digging equipment and pays the salaries of the engineer who designed it and of the diggers. An operational tunnel, according to the Independent, can be bought or sold for up to $150,000.
As the Hamas leadership continues to sponsor the building of tunnels, which they consider central to their economic infrastructure, the quiet that Sderot residents have experienced seems to be coming to a gradual end. Although the official date to the conclusion of the ceasefire is December 19, Palestinian terrorist operatives are continuing to fire rockets. Several more Qassam rockets were fired upon Israeli civilians throughout Wednesday and early Thursday morning, November 6. On Thursday, Sderot residents woke up to the sound of the red alert siren, Tzeva Adom, at two in the morning, which was followed by a rocket explosion that vibrated throughout the city.