Israel retaliates for border attack by attacking Rafah tunnels
Hours after a Palestinian attack on an Israeli patrol along the center of the Gaza-Israel border, Israel retaliated by sending warplanes to bomb the southern edge of the Gaza strip, striking the smuggling tunnels in the area.
An Israeli air attack was expected by everyone. Officials and civilians in Gaza knew it was inevitable following the bombing of an Israeli border patrol which killed one Israeli-Arab soldier.
Hamas officials had immediately evacuated government buildings and party headquarters, and the security forces had abandoned their camps out of fear they would be the targets.
However, when the Israeli attack came it struck in an unexpected area. The southern edge of the Gaza strip is where underground tunnels allow Gazans to import food, goods and weapons.
Israel made shutting the tunnels a major objective of its campaign in Gaza, and the commitment by Egypt, the USA and European nations to assist in stopping the tunnels was an important factor in causing Israel to stop its attacks earlier this moth and withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
For the Palestinians, the tunnels represent a vital economic need and a psychological triumph against Israel's land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip. Some of them are also used to transfer weapons.
Following the ceasefire, almost as soon as the Israeli air attacks in the area stopped, the tunnels were reopened. Israel has been openly angry about this, and apparently used yesterday's attack, which took place in a different area of the Gaza Strip, in order to shut them down again.
It is believed that the Israeli attack will only keep the tunnels quiet for a few hours, as people here wait to see if more bombs are coming, but they will probably be open again soon.