IAF planes bomb three southern Gaza tunnels in response to mortar shell attacks on western Negev.
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, JPOST.COM STAFF
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening reported finding two bodies in a tunnel which the IAF had bombed on Saturday afternoon.
Three weapons smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza were targeted in response to mortar shell fire on southern Israel earlier in the day.
In total, five southern Gaza tunnels were struck by the IAF over the weekend following sporadic rocket and mortar shell fire.
In one air strike launched on Saturday, the air force hit three tunnels, after two mortar shells were fired from Gaza at the western Negev.
Earlier on Saturday, soldiers opened fire after spotting three suspicious Palestinian figures who had approached the border fence in the southern Gaza area. The IDF said the action was aimed at keeping the figures away from the security fence.
On Friday, a Kassam rocket was fired at the Eshkol region. The projectile did not cause any casualties or damage. After the attack, the air force bombed two smuggling tunnels in the Philadelphi Corridor area of southern Gaza.
Terrorism analyst Dr. Ely Karmon, of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, said he believed a low level of fire from Gaza could be the work of a terrorist group with local considerations, or the result of Iranian and Hizbullah influence on Gaza.
"If Hamas is, as reports suggest, receiving advanced weaponry though their smuggling tunnels, they have an interest in smuggling more such weapons in without interruption. There are also Egyptian-mediated talks taking place between Hamas and Fatah, although there seems to be little chance of them succeeding, and Cairo is pushing for quiet," Karmon said.
"Groups like Islamic Jihad are disciples of Iran and Hizbullah, and are much closer to Iran than Hamas, which has wider political and diplomatic circles," Karmon added.
Army Radio reported that the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) claimed responsibility for Saturday's mortar shell attack.
"The PRC cooperates with Hamas. It used to be aligned with Fatah and then transferred to Hamas. They may have been paid to carry out the attack in order to avoid implicating Hamas," Karmon said. "The attack could also be a test of Israel's response," he added.
"We are living in a post-Operation Cast Lead period. There is no cease-fire agreement, and no agreement on Gilad Schalit," Karmon noted.
"Hamas is keeping a very low profile in the midst of the feud between Egypt and Hizbullah. Hamas is saying this is Hizbullah's issue, not ours. Egypt, for its part, did not attack Hamas in the recent fight with Hizbullah, even through Hamas was involved in the terror plots uncovered by Egypt," Karmon said.
Terrorist organizations could also be planning to disrupt the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the US, Karmon warned. "They could be plotting an attack to wreck the spirit of the meeting," he said.
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