October 29, 2006
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel may soon use “smart” bombs on the narrow border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons into the Palestinian territory, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.
Maariv daily said the precision-guided weapons would be used to penetrate deep underground in the hope of destroying the tunnel network that Israel says riddles the narrow border area.
The border strip, known as the Philadelphi Corridor, is 11 km long (6.5 miles) and approximately 100 metres wide.
“The plan (as it was presented) includes detailed reference to the proximity to the Egyptian border and the surrounding civilian population,” Maariv said.
An Israeli army spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying that private discussions of the army chief of staff could not be disclosed.
Egyptian officials were unavailable for comment.
Israel says it has been unable to control weapons smuggling into Gaza since it withdrew its forces from the coastal strip last year.
The decision to use “smart” bombs may be a substitute to reoccupying the entire region, the newspaper said.
Egyptian police recently seized 195 crates of automatic weapons and ammunition meant to be smuggled across the border.
Israel estimates that tons of munitions, including advanced shoulder-fire missiles, have been smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels, though they have presented scarce evidence that such weaponry is being used by Gaza militants.
The Israeli army said its troops discovered 15 tunnels along the border during the past week.
Maariv said the air force was given the green light to drop bombs after a similar campaign successfully destroyed tunnels along the northern Gaza border with Israel.
The army began targeting underground passages in Gaza after Palestinian militants tunneled into Israel and abducted one of its soldiers in a raid on June 25.
Israel has since launched an expanded offensive to retrieve the captured soldier. More than 250 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, about half of them civilians.
© Reuters 2006.