August 28, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 262

The Battle on the Palestinian Ho Chi Min Route

August 28, 2001
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 262

According to Ha'aretz military correspondent, Amos Harel, the PA is waging an ongoing battle on the borderline between Israel and Egypt. The fighting aims to secure the inflow of smuggled weapons through tunnels from Egypt. Following are excerpts from Harel's report:[1]

"While the Israeli media is preoccupied with the Gilo neighborhood [which has been under constant Palestinian fire from the area of Beit Jallah]… there is an ongoing war, which the public is unaware of, taking place in the southern area of the Gaza Strip."

"The city of Rafah and the adjacent town of Khan-Yunis are 'producing,' on average, 50% of the total daily number of shooting attacks and roadside bombs in the territories… The most dangerous road in the area is passing along the border-fence which separates Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah…"

"The clashes in Rafah revolve around the tunnels. The goal of the Israeli Defense Force [IDF] is to prevent the smuggling of weapons and terror activists [from entering into Gaza] through the Egyptian border via about twenty different tunnels. According to most estimates, these tunnels pass underneath the border road [between Egypt and Gaza]. The IDF is digging all along this road in order to cut [these tunnels]. On the road itself, the IDF established two posts to prevent the smuggling."

"Every [IDF] movement on the border road attracts Palestinian fire, grenades, and roadside bombs. The movement on the road is limited to armored vehicles… The southern IDF post sustains massive attacks every night."[2]

"Unlike other areas – where fire exchanges are sporadic – in Rafah there is daily, ongoing warfare. The warfare is not getting much attention from the public due to its distance from the center [of Israel] and the absence of civilians in that region… consequently, the events in Rafah are reported on the back pages of the Israeli press, if they even make it to the papers at all…"

"The main Palestinian objective in Rafah is not to cause casualties to the IDF, but rather to protect their lifeline: the tunnels… In their absence, the Palestinians will not be able to make profits from smuggling cigarettes, electrical equipment, and they will definitely not be able to collect the payments which the Palestinian Authority is providing for the weaponry that is being transported in these tunnels. This endeavor is assisted on the Egyptian side by activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, and frequently by Egyptian Border Police personnel."

"For the Palestinian Authority [the ongoing battle on the border road] is a struggle for survival. [The main goal of this battle] is to guarantee [the smuggling of] additional weapons, mainly for a broader conflict with Israel. Although the length of this route is only 120 meters, it includes twenty tunnels creating a strategic corridor, the Palestinian Ho-Chi Minh route..."

[1]Ha'aretz, August 17, 2001. 'Egyptian Border Police Smuggling Weaponry to PA.'

[2] As of August 21, 2001, about 800 grenades were launched at the IDF southern post.
Source: The Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA Channel 1) on August 21, 2001.

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