During the night of 23 January 2008, Hamas terrorists blew up a part of the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, near the Rafah border crossing. This was utilized to smuggle large amounts of arms and ammunition, particularly explosives, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, designated for terrorist organizations.
(Israeli security sources)
During the night of 23 January 2008, Hamas terrorists blew up a part of the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, near the Rafah border crossing. The explosions opened up breaches extending for a few hundred meters along the border, and several hundred thousand Palestinians streamed freely over the border from Gaza into the Sinai.
The breaches in the border and the possibility of uninhibited passage to Egypt have brought a number of dangers in their wake. One of these dangers is that a breached border can be used to smuggle large amounts of arms and ammunition, particularly explosives, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, designated for terrorist organizations, with Hamas heading the list. The arms boost Hamas strength and upgrade its capabilities as it builds its power base. In the six months between the Hamas takeover in June 2007 and the breaching of the border on 23 January 2008, close to 100 tons of explosives were smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt (more than three times the amount smuggled in the period between the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the Hamas takeover two years later). It is estimated that since the border was breached, large quantities of arms and explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
Even before the breaching of the border at Rafah, the Philadelphi Route connecting the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been a major source of smuggling by terrorist organizations, mainly through tunnels dug from Rafah towards the Sinai. The arms-smuggling infrastructure is also used to smuggle terrorists, in a three-step operation from Gaza into the Sinai and from there over the porous border into Israel. This method was used in an attempted suicide attack on Beer Sheva that was interdicted on 3 July 2007. The intended suicide bomber, who was captured wearing an explosive belt, admitted under questioning that he had infiltrated from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai and from there into Israeli territory. He also said that he was instructed to find a crowded place in which to blow himself up.
The tunnels are also used by the terrorist organizations to smuggle in huge amounts of cash – sometimes tens of millions of dollars at a time. The money, which usually comes from various Arab countries, first and foremost Iran, enables the terrorist organizations to preserve and broaden their organizational base by paying for the salaries and training of their operatives. Hamas is especially prominent in using the tunnels for smuggling money. A large part of its military operations budget, estimated at tens of millions of dollars, was acquired in this way. The money helps Hamas boost its strength and the scope of its activities.