Both of the major Palestinian factions held large military exercises this week. The Palestinian Authority headed by the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas conducted large scale drills in the four West Bank cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Bethlehem. Hundreds of members of all P.A. security forces participated, to test their ability to coordinate operations during simultaneous complex security situations.
The Hamas-rulers of the Gaza Strip also called a surprise exercise, involving all members of its paramilitary factions. The mass drill was carried out on an unprecedented level, mandating the closure of all the land crossings and the banning of offshore activities, including fishing. The exercise was said to have simulated a wide-ranging security incident in the Palestinian enclave.
The drill took place one day after Israel announced the discovery of yet another tunnel penetrating its territory that originated in southern Gaza. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported that the passage was uncovered during the Israeli construction of an underground barrier explicitly designed to prevent further subterranean infiltration by Palestinian terrorists.
The tunnel did not appear to have been excavated recently, and it is believed to have been dug some time ago. Its location was in an area in which many similar passageways were uncovered and destroyed over the past two decades.
The Eshkol Regional Council attributed the tunnel’s discovery “to groundbreaking technological defenses that are being used along the Gaza border to protect our communities.” The statement went on to express southern Israeli residents gratitude to “the IDF soldiers and officers who act resolutely and with courage to defend our communities.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli defense establishment is working with the IDF to formulate a strategy for mass civilian evacuation in the event of a “security escalation” in which Gaza border communities are endangered by Hamas rocket and anti-tank fire.
The plan under discussion concerns residents living on the upper floors of tall buildings exposed to direct shooting in the town of Sderot, in the hope that the reduction of fatalities and property damage resulting from the reduction of Hamas striking capability would carry broader strategic implications.
Sderot is a southern Israeli town in the western Negev with a population of around 25,000 people, just one kilometer away from the Gaza border. It has been the target of thousands of missiles fired from the Palestinian enclave, with just 7-10 seconds for residents to reach shelter before impact.