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IV. The Security Situation in Rafah

The IDF has stated two main rationales for house demolitions along the Rafah border: responding to and preventing attacks on its forces and suppressing the smuggling of weapons through tunnels from Egypt.  Both issues present problems to the security of the Occupying Power.  Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch’s research on the pattern of destruction since the beginning of the uprising and the border security situation places Israeli justifications for mass demolitions in serious doubt.

The Egypt-Gaza border is 12.5 kilometers long, of which four kilometers run alongside Rafah.  According to the IDF, “Rafah and the Philadelphi route is the most dangerous, violent area of the whole conflict.”82  An IDF spokesman for the Southern Command told Human Rights Watch that sixty to seventy percent of all Palestinian attacks in the conflict occur in the southern zone.83  Due to its border location, Rafah is also the main area for smuggling tunnels – called “arteries of terror,” by the IDF – that supply Palestinian militants with arms and ammunition.

outpost image
An IDF watchtowner on the Gaza-Egypt border, overlooking the neighborhood Tel al-Sultan.
(c) 2004 Fred Abrahams/Human Rights Watch

Palestinian armed groups and residents in the area agree that Rafah is a hostile place.  Exchanges of fire, attacks on IDF outposts, and Israeli incursions occur with regularity.  And Palestinian armed groups admit receiving weapons from Egypt through tunnels in Rafah, although they deny the tunnels are as extensive as the IDF claims.  Rafah residents believe the IDF’s tunnel-hunting missions, which account for most of the 1,600 homes destroyed in the camp, are a pretext to punish Rafah as a whole and undermine support for the resistance.

Comprehensive statistics on combatant and civilian deaths are unavailable and there is no consensus on how many Palestinian casualties from IDF fire are civilians.  The IDF does not appear to keep statistics of civilian deaths or injuries inflicted by its forces. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 393 residents of the Rafah governorate were killed between September 29, 2000, and August 31, 2004, including ninety-eight children under age eighteen.84  The lowest possible percentage of civilian victims in Rafah is twenty-nine, which is the percentage of women and children killed over the past four years.  The actual figure is undoubtedly much higher because twenty-nine percent presumes that every adult Palestinian male killed was directly participating in hostilities.  In the same period, Palestinian armed groups have killed ten Israeli soldiers in Rafah.85  Five were killed on May 12, 2004, when their armored personnel carrier (APC) was destroyed in the buffer zone.  Four others were killed in various incursions in July 2002, April 2003, and May 2004.  In February 2001, a soldier was shot and killed by a sniper while patrolling the border.  In addition, there have been two attacks on IDF positions in the border zone using explosives moved through tunnels, resulting in three injuries.86

The IDF and Palestinian Armed Groups

The Gaza Strip falls under the responsibility of the Southern Command of the Israel Defense Force.  The strip is further divided into two districts: north and south.  The southern brigade covers the towns of Rafah, Khan Yunis, and the Gush Katif settlement blocs.

Box 2: Key Israeli Decision-Makers in the Gaza Strip

Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon (General Officer Commanding, Southern Command 1969-1972)

Defense Minister

Shaul Mofaz (GOC Southern Command 1994-1996)

Chief of IDF General Staff

Lt. Gen. Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon

GOC Southern Command

Maj. Gen. Dan Harel

Gaza Division      

Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zakai

Givati Brigade

Col. Eyal Eisenberg

Southern Gaza District

Col. Pinhas “Pinky” Zuaretz (wounded July 8, 2004)
Col. Yehoshua Rynski (current)

There are four main Palestinian armed groups in Rafah, each affiliated with a different political organization: the al-Quds Brigades (Islamic Jihad), the ‘Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades (Hamas), the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Fatah), and the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades (Popular Resistance Committees, or PRC).  Although these groups have different political agendas, they share a common immediate goal: the end of Gaza’s occupation.

The armed groups in Rafah mostly engage in three types of actions: attacking IDF soldiers and outposts along the border, resisting IDF incursions into Palestinian towns, and attacking Jewish settlements in Gaza.  The bulk of the groups’ activity in Rafah consists of monitoring IDF movements and preparing to defend against incursions, which happen on a regular basis.  Such defenses include laying remote-controlled mines or IEDs in the streets, booby-trapping homes, and placing snipers in buildings, the fighters said.

On the ground, the four groups exchange information, coordinate activities and undertake joint operations.  “We’re still brothers, despite being in different groups,” a Rafah representative from the Popular Resistance Committees, who presented himself as a local commander, told Human Rights Watch.  “All of them work on the ground as one unit because the enemy makes no distinction.  Of course there were many joint operations.”87  An Islamic Jihad fighter who called himself Abu Husayn agreed.  “If one group doesn’t have enough weapons in a neighborhood, we bring it to them,” he said.  “We also share information.”88

In conversations and interviews with Rafah residents, the views on armed groups in town ranged from support to disdain.  Some sympathized with “the resistance” as the best means to fight the occupation, and supported the resistance at all costs.  Others said the groups are ineffective and brought further hardship to the civilian population.  As one resident of Block J who lives two hundred meters from the border complained, “the resistance cannot defend us.  They were coming here sometimes before, but when the tanks come they run away.”89  “Even if people come with guns, we stop them,” one Rafah resident said, referring to the Palestinian groups.  “We’re afraid for our houses and children.  When there are clashes here, we are the ones who suffer.”90  Perhaps this statement best reflects the most common view among civilians in the affected areas: the resistance is a good thing, as long as it is not in my neighborhood.

The fighters from Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees said protecting civilians was a main concern, but their strategies place into question the extent to which they put civilians at risk.  When asked what steps they take to minimize civilian harm, the fighters said they prefer to fight in empty areas but that the Israeli forces often attack in inhabited zones.  “The problem is that Israeli tanks attack houses while people are inside, so the resistance is forced to fight these tanks while people are inside,” the PRC commander said.  The IDF responds with the same claim, saying it is “forced to operate in Palestinian civilian areas because the terrorists use the civilian areas as their base of operation.”91

Fighting on the Border

The patrol corridor along the Rafah border is well-fortified against attack by adversaries armed mainly with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Towers afford visual surveillance over much of Rafah, while armored patrols allow mobile monitoring and force protection.  In late 2002 and early 2003, the IDF doubled the width of its patrol corridor by constructing a metal barrier on land where recently demolished homes near the border had stood.  As of May, the wall is eight meters high and 1.6 kilometers long.  By pushing the IDF perimeter closer to the camp, the metal wall has become a new starting point for the buffer zone, justifying further demolitions.  This dynamic of expansion explains in part the dramatic increase in the pace of demolitions after the completion of the metal wall which should have enhanced the security of the IDF.

Palestinian armed groups attack the IDF border positions with small arms, homemade bombs, and rocket-propelled grenades, mostly at night and rarely with success.  On the other side, IDF positions and roving tanks along the border and in the buffer zone fire on a daily basis into Rafah with heavy machine guns, rockets, and tank cannons, often indiscriminately.  Such indiscriminate shooting, even when in response to attack from populated areas, violates international law.

Human Rights Watch researchers visiting the border area in July 2004, for example, heard frequent incoming fire from .50-caliber machine guns (possessed only by the IDF) directed at the edge of the camp.  Nearly every house at the edge of the destroyed area was extensively pockmarked by heavy machine gun, tank, and rocket fire on the side facing the border.  Bullet holes were not only clustered around windows or other possible sniper positions, but sprayed over entire sides of buildings.  Human Rights Watch researchers visiting homes at the edge of the camp examined damage caused by bullets to appliances and furniture that had passed through several walls, entering rooms facing away from the border.

During three nights spent in Rafah, Human Rights Watch researchers heard long bursts of heavy machine gun fire directed at the camp throughout the night, and local residents said such IDF shooting was normal.  Researchers also heard scattered shooting from AK-47s used by Palestinians occasionally interspersed between the IDF barrages.

In the nearby refugee camp of Khan Yunis on July 22, 2004, Human Rights Watch researchers saw IDF tracer rounds from heavy machine guns indiscriminately falling onto buildings fifty meters away.  The researchers did not witness or hear any Palestinian shooting from the area at the time.  While it is difficult to determine whether these shootings were provoked or not, they were clearly indiscriminate.   Previous visits by Human Rights Watch researchers to the area since 2001, as well as interviews with local residents, indicated that the shooting witnessed in Rafah and Khan Yunis was a regular occurrence.

One significant indicator of the degree of security achieved by the IDF is the viewpoint of its adversaries.  Fighters in Rafah interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that attacking the IDF bunkers and watchtowers on the border is largely in vain, and the slowly-expanding buffer zone makes it virtually impossible to approach the border to lay mines or IEDs.  “We usually fight during invasions.  It’s very different to work when there’s no invasion,” explained Abu Husayn from Islamic Jihad.  “It’s hard to make any resistance near the border.  It’s a dangerous area.”92  Small arms fire on fortified IDF targets is also limited due to the high cost of ammunition.  According to Abu Husayn, one Kalashnikov round – a 7.62mm bullet – costs 32 Israeli shekels, or around U.S. $7 dollars.93 

The major exception this year was the May 12 attack by Islamic Jihad with an RPG on an Israeli armored vehicle in the buffer zone that killed five Israeli soldiers.  The vehicle was laden with explosives for use in destroying smuggling tunnels.  The vehicle was hit while between the metal wall and the camp, not while inside the shielded patrol corridor.  The circumstances of the incident illustrate the IDF’s expansive concept of security: the IDF destroyed houses, built a metal wall, and doubled the width of the patrol corridor in part to protect troops against attack.  But as the patrol corridor widened, the IDF perimeter came significantly closer to the remaining homes, exposing it to risks that are now being invoked to justify the further demolition of homes in order to expand the buffer zone.  According to this logic, the IDF could continue to relocate its positions progressively closer to homes and then destroy them for security purposes.

Caught between overwhelming IDF fire and the activities of Palestinian armed groups, Rafah residents in the border area live under constant threat.  Despite the shooting and danger of incursion, some are reluctant to vacate their homes, fearing the IDF would regard them as uninhabited and order them destroyed.  Under international law, military commanders must ensure that the civilian costs of their actions are proportionate to concrete tactical gains. In such calculations, uninhabited civilian buildings tend to be of less value than an inhabited house.  Israeli officials have often defended demolitions on the grounds that such houses were uninhabited.  Houses cannot be demolished merely because they are uninhabited, however; the necessity of demolition must be established first.  These official Israeli statements also ignore the role that indiscriminate and at times unprovoked Israeli shooting contributes to “abandonment.”

Most importantly, mere absence is not the same as abandonment.  Many Rafah residents vacate their homes temporarily but attempt to stay as much as possible.  Staying even part-time entails considerable risks, but it also allows owners to ensure their homes are not used by gunmen or tunnel-diggers.  One Palestinian, living in the municipal stadium after being bulldozed out of two homes by the IDF in 2001 and 2004, explained how the IDF tactics force Palestinians near the border to leave their homes. “If [the Israelis] want to make you leave the home, they shoot the walls, they shoot the windows,” he said.  “Then they can come and say ‘It is empty,’ and bulldoze the house.”94 

Ahmed Najjar, a construction worker who lives in what is now the last line of houses in  Block J, has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent his home from being demolished.  While he waits for the Court to decide on whether it will hear his case, bullets from IDF positions regularly enter his house:

This is our home.  It’s our right to stay here.  We shouldn’t have to leave because of the shelling.  We are still living here.  Every time there is a house where the owners remove the furniture, it’s then destroyed. … I expect them to come at any time [to demolish].95

Mr. Najjar’s neighbor, Moussa Sarafandi, has also petitioned the Court to prevent the destruction of his house.  He showed Human Rights Watch researchers bullet holes from IDF positions in his refrigerator and walls.  “The children are psychologically affected,” he said.  “They can’t sleep.  They wet the bed without any control.”96  This anxiety is only heightened if the home is actually demolished.  “Destruction of the home means loss of trust, rendering children insecure,” said Eyad Zaqout, a psychiatrist with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.  “It gives them an acute sense of vulnerability”97  One week after Human Rights Watch researchers visited Mr. Sarafandi’s home, it was damaged when the IDF exploded a nearby house.98

Mohammed al-Namla, a playwright who works at a local children’s centre, lives in a building that the IDF tried to demolish in May 2004; after human rights activists and the Namla family reached an IDF legal adviser by phone, the demolition was called off for the time being.  Several weeks later, Mr. Namla said, troops returned to force the family out, leaving them in fear again that the home would be demolished; instead, the soldiers commandeered the house for a day and left after vandalizing the furniture, leaving feces in the family’s clothes, and stealing U.S. $200 in cash.  Located in the Brazil neighborhood, less than three hundred meters from the border, the house is one of the last remaining buildings in the vicinity, but the al-Namla family refuses to leave and continues to repair damage from previous incursions.  Awareness that abandonment could also possibly allow gunmen to enter, ensuring the demolition of the home, only exacerbates the family’s anxiety.  Mr. Namla, who takes turns with his father and brother standing guard, told Human Rights Watch about the intense shooting from the IDF into the area, especially at night:

If the area gets quiet, I’ll go back for sure. … My father still goes to the house during the day to keep gunmen from it.  My brother and I alternate sleeping there.  Last night I was in the house.  I sat with coffee and cigarettes all night waiting for something to happen.  There was heavy shooting into Brazil, everybody expected an invasion.99

Smuggling Tunnels in Rafah

Smugglers’ tunnels are the IDF’s main stated reason for incursions into Rafah and house demolitions near the border.  As the military has repeatedly argued, it aims to find and destroy the tunnels that Palestinian armed groups use to obtain weapons and ammunition.

Human Rights Watch researched the tunnel situation on the border by speaking with Rafah residents, IDF officers, PNA officials, foreign diplomats in Israel, Israeli and foreign journalists, Egyptian security officials, and experts familiar with the nature of Rafah’s subsurface soil.  Interviews were conducted with three foreign experts in detecting and/or neutralizing tunnels.100  Based on this research, Human Rights Watch believes that the IDF’s pattern of house demolitions is inconsistent with its stated goals.  In some cases, the destruction was disproportionate and arbitrary.

Smuggling tunnels exist, but the Israeli government and military are exaggerating their numbers, their lateral extent, and the number of entry/exit points, known as egress shafts.  The IDF claims to have uncovered at least ninety tunnels since 2000, but it has actually found ninety tunnel egresses, of which an undisclosed fraction actually led to tunnels that ran to Egypt. Others were incomplete shafts that could have been closed with poured concrete.  Before 2003,the IDF bulldozed individual homes that covered tunnel exits without taking action against the tunnels themselves.

In addition, Human Rights Watch documented several cases in which the IDF demolished groups of homes in order to “close” tunnels that had already been closed by the PNA.  It also destroyed houses covering incomplete tunnel entrances, representing potential threats that could have been sealed with concrete.  Such operations frequently resulted not only in the destruction of the house with the tunnel exit, but in the bulldozing of surrounding houses as well, either in response to Palestinian weapons fire or as a preventive measure.

Finally, a number of non-destructive methods exist to detect and neutralize clandestine tunnels, especially where they cross beneath the IDF-controlled border.  Such technology, successfully tested and repeatedly utilized under semi-hostile conditions elsewhere, could reduce or obviate the need for incursions inside Rafah.  The IDF claims to have exhausted all alternatives but declined to explain what methods it has tested in Rafah and why those methods proved ineffective.  While some information regarding tunnel detection may be sensitive, the current policy of house demolitions has an enormous impact on the civilian population.  The burden is therefore on the IDF to clarify why the only way of dealing with tunnels that run beneath their positions is to demolish houses deeper and deeper into Rafah.

An Overview

Tunnels are both a longstanding acknowledged fact in Rafah and a phenomenon shrouded in rumor.  It is widely agreed that after the international border under the 1979 Camp David treaty divided Rafah between Egypt and Gaza, smugglers began to dig in the soft sand to facilitate the transfer of goods, mostly cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.  The tunnels were an economic venture at the time, and their value increased as Israel tightened its controls around the Gaza Strip.  As resistance to the occupation increased, the tunnels were used for the passage of arms and ammunition.101

Today, the tunnels are operated by a reportedly small group of smugglers who plan, dig, and maintain the passages, transporting goods for whomever pays.  The exit shafts are usually dug in private homes, both inhabited and abandoned.  According to the IDF, “economic factors play a crucial role in recruiting local residents into the weapons smuggling ‘industry.’”102  The head of the PNA Preventive Security Service in Rafah mostly agreed.  “Most people have no work and nothing to do, so they rent their houses to tunnel traders,” Yusuf Abu Siyam said.  He added that “the reason for the tunnels is the occupation, because people have no work and the economy is bad.”103  The IDF has also alleged that some house owners are coerced by armed gangs to allow their homes to be used, but the broad pattern suggests that money is the main motivating factor.

His point was echoed by Dr. Ali Shehada Ali Barhoum, the city manager at Rafah municipality, who asked rhetorically why the tunnels exist.  “You put people in the corner without any resources and ask them to survive,” he answered.  “Close the border, no opportunity to work, jobless people and ask them to survive.  The tunnels weren’t big before the Intifada when people could work in Israel.”104

According to Preventive Security chief Abu Siyam, the smuggled goods include cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and doves, a popular pet in town.  But, he admitted, the main items in recent years are Kalashnikov automatic rifles, ammunition, explosives, and grenades.  Indeed, Palestinian armed groups in Rafah told Human Rights Watch they received such arms and ammunition through the tunnels, although they denied the tunnels were central to their work.  “There are many ways to fight the occupation, not only tunnels,” the Popular Resistance Committees commander said.

The IDF presents the tunnels as a massive threat.  “These tunnels as we see them are the gateway to terror,” IDF spokeswoman Major Sharon Feingold told Human Rights Watch.  She said that Palestinian armed groups use them to obtain ever-more sophisticated weapons and explosives for attacks against Israeli civilians, and that intelligence suggests more serious weapons are waiting to enter with help from Iran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.105

According to Maj. Librati, most tunnels are between three and twenty meters deep, and sixty to seventy centimeters wide, or shoulder-width.106  The IDF has distributed some photographs of shafts and tunnels consistent with these dimensions.  In videos released by the IDF, most shafts are vertical, linking to a tunnel at an angle of ninety degrees.107  An Israeli civilian photographer who accompanied soldiers on more than one dozen tunnel-hunting missions told Human Rights Watch that he saw motorized cables in the tunnels for transporting goods.108  The exits in Rafah are mostly in private homes near the border, hidden under tiles or furniture.

The PNA says since September 2000 it has closed ten tunnel shafts with poured concrete.  According to the head of the PNA Preventive Security Service in Rafah, Yusuf Abu Siyam, the PNA has a special unit dedicated to tunnel detection and destruction that cooperates with “other international agencies.”  In addition, he said his office had arrested diggers, tunnel operators, and home owners who allowed their property to be used, although he did not provide details.109

Human Rights Watch spoke separately with a member of the PNA’s Preventive Security Service, Taleb Abu Sharikh, who said he had personally closed seven tunnel shafts in the past four years by pouring concrete from above, and the PNA had closed ten such entrances in total.  He complained that, in one case from September 2003, the IDF opened fire on his team while they were closing a tunnel entrance in the Block O section of the camp, despite having been notified that his team would be working in the area.110  Abu Sharikh and Abu Siyam also complained that the IDF sometimes destroyed a home with a tunnel entrance that the PNA had already sealed.  “Every time we closed a tunnel, the bulldozers came right after,” Abu Siyam said.  “They use the tunnels as an excuse to destroy an area.”

The IDF responds that the PNA has tolerated if not actively supported the tunnels’ construction by encouraging people to conceal exit holes in their houses or on their property.111  Attempts by the PNA to close tunnels, the IDF says, have been cosmetic at best, and in many cases the IDF was forced to reseal a shaft because the PNA’s work was incomplete. 

Human Rights Watch also raised the matter with Egyptian authorities, who are monitoring the tunnels from their side of the border in cooperation with Israel.  “No one has an accurate number of tunnels, but they are limited in number and are mostly deserted,” General Ahmed Omar of the Egyptian Interior Ministry explained, estimating that the Egyptian authorities have found less than ten tunnels in recent years.  “It is not logical for there to be many tunnels and for them to remain secret.”  According to General Omar, smuggling into Rafah is insignificant compared to the two-way overland smuggling of people, drugs, and other goods on the much longer Egyptian-Israeli border, which is composed mostly of desert.112

In meetings with Human Rights Watch, IDF officials expressed conflicting opinions about Israel’s satisfaction with Egypt on the border issue, with some praising their efforts and others saying that more could be done.  “We understand that the Egyptians are quite active.  Whenever they find a tunnel they report it to us, they send us pictures, they give us information about the shaft.  We also give the Egyptians information that we can,” said Maj. Librati.  “We understand that they could do better.  But it is very good and effective coordination.  There’s a lot to do.”113  Off the record, other IDF officers expressed dissatisfaction with Egypt’s efforts on the border.  Western diplomats based in Israel generally agreed that Egyptian security forces may allow and even profit from some small-scale smuggling of contraband but they are otherwise in control of their side of the Gaza border and would not allow advanced weapons to be smuggled through it.

In addition to tunnels under the border, armed groups are digging tunnels inside the Gaza Strip to attack IDF positions.  Most recently, on June 27, 2004, Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for an explosion under an IDF checkpoint in central Gaza that killed one soldier and wounded five others.  These internal tunnels are not a major factor cited by the IDF for demolitions in Rafah.

Tunnels vs. Shafts

Since September 2000, the IDF says it has discovered and destroyed more than ninety tunnels in Rafah.114  This figure is repeated frequently by the military and Israeli politicians, giving the impression that Rafah is honeycombed with underground passages, each of them pumping arms to armed Palestinian groups, with new ones constantly being dug.

In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Maj. Librati, of the IDF Southern Command clarified that the IDF had not found ninety tunnels, but rather ninety entrance shafts in Rafah.  He explained that there are far fewer actual tunnels under the border, and Rafah smugglers dig new shafts to connect with what exists below.  “We do not know how many tunnels there are, but they are not digging all the way under Egypt,” he said.115  This is consistent with an account a Rafah smuggler gave to the Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who has covered the Gaza Strip for Ha’aretz since 1991.  According to the smuggler and another “Palestinian source” cited in the article, the IDF closes entrance shafts rather than tunnels, and therefore often counts existing tunnels two or more times.116  According to Maj. Librati, “We don’t know the exact number of tunnels.”  An IDF document available on the Internet claims that, as of May 2004, ten to fifteen tunnels remained in operation.117

According to Maj. Librati, only since 2003 have IDF personnel ventured into the tunnels themselves to collapse them with explosives.  Before that, the IDF bulldozed houses covering tunnel entrance shafts without closing the tunnels themselves.118 Such a practice was largely ineffective: by leaving most of the tunnel intact, the IDF allowed smugglers to reopen the tunnel from another location.  Two experts in tunnel neutralization consulted by Human Rights Watch considered the technique illogical.  “As a tunnel engineer and as a military guy I would have to say that’s really quite foolish,” said Dr. Allen Hatheway, a retired professor of geological engineering at the University of Missouri and a retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel who spent parts of five years working on North Korean tunnels in the Korean DMZ on behalf of the U.S. military and the South Korean government.  He told Human Rights Watch: “It really is highly illogical in the sense of a defensive mechanism not to utilize the found access shaft to learn the maximum amount of information about the tunnel system and then to go in that tunnel system to the point where the maximum amount of damage can be done to the tunneler’s access.”119 

The IDF changed tactics in 2003.  According to one press account, that year a junior IDF officer named Lieutenant Aviv Hakani gathered an informal group of soldiers specializing in tunnels discovery, which began entering tunnels to devise ways of collapsing them.120  The attack on the APC in May 2004 killed Hakani and many of the soldiers in the unit.  In June 2004, after destroying approximately 1,500 homes in Rafah, the IDF reportedly decided to create a company-sized unit specializing in tunnels.121  The IDF’s approach – namely, the use of puzzlingly ineffective methods for two years, followed by unclear improvements reportedly initiated by a junior officer – contrast sharply with the stated gravity of this longstanding threat.

Without doubt, smugglers have dug new cross-border tunnels in recent years.  According to the smuggler interviewed by Amira Hass, five to seven tunnels ran from Egypt on the eve of the uprising.  Smugglers have built more than thirty tunnels in the four years since, he claimed, though it is unclear if he was referring to entrances or to whole tunnels (the lateral components).122  Much of the digging appears to be of new shafts to pre-existing tunnels, as Maj. Librati said.

The IDF provided Human Rights Watch with a list of tunnels it claimed to have found in Rafah since 2000, listed by date but with no location data and with descriptions included in only a few cases.123  When Human Rights Watch requested the IDF to provide a more precise list specifying how many whole tunnels had been closed versus entrance shafts, the IDF said that such information was classified.124

Destruction Around Inoperative Tunnels

Human Rights Watch documented three cases where the IDF destroyed houses even though tunnel entrances in or near them had either been closed or were inoperative.  These tunnel entrances were discovered by local residents, who then told the PNA in the hopes that, by having the tunnels closed, they could avert an IDF incursion.  The residents of Rafah all protested the arbitrary nature of the IDF’s demolitions, but many people also had contempt for the profiteers who dig tunnels in their neighborhoods, thereby providing the IDF with a pretext to demolish homes.

Around midnight between July 20 and 21, 2004, the IDF entered and sealed off an area of housing at the edge of Rafah’s Salam and Brazil neighborhoods, approximately 250 meters from the border.  According to UNRWA, Israeli forces demolished eighteen houses, leaving 205 people homeless.  At least one factory was also destroyed.  The IDF announced that it had found and destroyed two incomplete tunnel shafts.

Human Rights Watch researchers visited the scene approximately three hours after Israeli forces had departed and witnessed crowds of people recovering furniture, clothes, bedding, and other personal items from the rubble.  The pattern of destruction was partial; rather than an entire area of homes being uniformly razed, several three- or four-story buildings remained standing.  As discussed in Chapter 6, this is consistent with a pattern of demolishing mostly smaller homes while commandeering taller ones – which are more difficult to bulldoze – as sniper outposts.  During a three-hour visit, researchers did not find any physical evidence of exchanges of fire, such as bullet holes or spent shell casings.

As the incursion began, Zakia Timraz watched military bulldozers plow through her family’s soda bottling factory, carving a path into the Salam neighborhood.  A group of soldiers then took over her house, which was next to the factory, and confined all twelve members of the family to one room for the duration of the incursion, which lasted for over twenty-four hours.  From there, Ms. Timraz could hear sounds of the destruction taking place:

They destroyed mainly in the night, not during the daytime.  I could hear [the bulldozing] starting around 1:00 a.m. on the first night, as they destroyed to the east of the house.  Last night and this morning, they bulldozed on the west side of the house.  They do nothing during the day but keep the engines on.125

The demolition continued throughout the first night.  Ismail Abu Libda, who watched the bulldozing for several hours that night from his home at the boundary between Brazil and Salam neighborhoods, went to sleep believing his area would be safe:

I was sleeping when [the bulldozer] hit our walls.  They didn’t give us any warning.  We heard our walls falling as we woke up.  Some of us were able to put clothes on, others not. … I saw some armed [Palestinian] fighters down the street to the west as I was escaping from my house.  They were standing, waiting, not doing anything. … We didn’t take anything with us, we left the door open.  We went to my sister’s house in Jnayna neighborhood.  We did not look behind us.  The house was destroyed in five minutes.126

Three other eyewitnesses also said that there had been no hostilities in the area at the time.  According to a representative of Islamic Jihad, one pre-placed explosive charge was detonated during the incursion near an IDF armored vehicle, without causing significant damage.  Fighters rushed to the area, he said, but arrived too late to confront the IDF, which had already sealed off the area by positioning tanks in the streets and snipers in the higher buildings.127

At 6:00 a.m. on July 22, the IDF destroyed a multi-story house in the area using explosive charges and then withdrew.  The blast could be felt throughout Rafah, including by Human Rights Watch researchers nearly one kilometer away.  The house had been vacated weeks earlier, and residents had recently found an incomplete tunnel shaft inside.  Ismail Abu Libda told Human Rights Watch:

A week ago we knew about the hole in the neighborhood.  The house was empty, and we saw some guys going in who didn’t live there.  So people in the neighborhood became suspicious.  I went with some of the people.  [The hole] was in the sitting room.  It was not covered and the house was empty.  It was a 9-10m deep hole with sand at the bottom.  We informed [PNA] Preventive Security but they didn’t come.128

Human Rights Watch researchers were unable to verify the existence of the tunnel shaft, as the destruction of the house in question left behind only a large crater strewn with debris.  During the visit, another loud explosion occurred nearby in the buffer zone, throwing a geyser of dirt into the air.

Later that day, the IDF issued a statement announcing the discovery and destruction of two incomplete tunnel shafts in the operation, 8 and 6.5 meters deep respectively, the former in a “civilian structure.”  The statement claimed that Palestinians detonated several explosives against the IDF, but made no reference of any other armed resistance, nor were any house demolitions mentioned.129

By demolishing homes on two nights in the face of little or no resistance, the IDF appears to have destroyed these buildings without meeting the requirement of absolute military necessity – which demands that the destruction take place in order to serve requirements related to actual combat.  Moreover, the demolition of eighteen civilian homes, rendering over two hundred people homeless, was clearly unnecessary to close two incomplete tunnel shafts.  An expert in tunnel neutralization consulted by Human Rights Watch who wished to remain unnamed confirmed that incomplete shafts can be effectively sealed with poured concrete.130

Human Rights Watch also documented two cases in which the IDF destroyed homes after the PNA, tipped off by local residents fearing an Israeli incursion, had sealed tunnel entrances in the area.  A third case was reported in the Israeli media.  Human Rights Watch was unable to locate the residents who allegedly hosted the tunnels in their homes, as they had left the area to avoid retaliation from former friends and neighbors.

In September or October 2003, for example, residents of Brazil neighborhood discovered an incomplete tunnel shaft in the Abu Na’ama house.  The homeowner’s father-in-law recalled the anger that spread through the neighborhood: “Amer Abu Na’ama was the man whose house the tunnel was in.  We went to beat him up,” Mahmoud al-Mghali told Human Rights Watch. “He was beaten so badly he went to the hospital.  I think he knew the army was coming.”131

Abu Sharikh from the Preventive Security Service confirmed the case, saying, “We get information from people about tunnels, especially in the Abu Na’ma case.  We went with the police and put concrete in the tunnel.  This tunnel was also incomplete.  The next day, the Israelis came and destroyed houses in the area.  They put explosives in the house and three or four nearby houses were damaged by the blast.”132  Khadra Abu Na’ama, one of the residents of the house, denied that there had been a tunnel in her home in an interview with a foreign journalist and accused neighbors of making false accusations.133

According to Amira Hass, residents of Yibna neighborhood reportedly burned the home of a tunnel operator named Hussein Abu Zaid in December 2003.  The IDF sealed the tunnel and destroyed the surrounding homes, but left Abu Zaid’s home intact, prompting accusations that he was collaborating with the Israelis.134  It is unclear if this was a shaft connecting to a tunnel or just a reference to an incomplete shaft.

In May 2004, residents in the Brazil district learned of a tunnel in the house of the Bablifamily.  The PNA closed the tunnel with cement and residents then set fire to the house themselves, hoping to avoid an Israeli incursion.  According to one neighbor who witnessed the closing of the tunnel, “[The PNA] left, and the neighbors started to destroy the house.  We thought that this tunnel would be a disaster for us.  We wanted to show that there was no tunnel in our neighborhood. … The whole area is angry and upset with the Babli family.”135  The IDF came nevertheless, destroying houses in the area during the major May 2004 incursions and announcing the discovery of an incomplete tunnel entrance shaft (see Map 7).  Residents believe that the IDF was referring to the tunnel entrance sealed earlier by the PNA; the IDF told journalists that it would not disclose the exact location of the shaft or the name of the family in whose house it was discovered.136

Alternatives to House Destruction

In interviews with Human Rights Watch, two IDF officials said the IDF had explored all options for tunnel interdiction and destruction.  They were unwilling to provide details of what they had tried and why such measures were unsatisfactory, but they maintained that incursions into Rafah and the destruction of tunnels and/or shafts under homes was the most effective means to close the tunnels down.  According to IDF spokeswoman Maj. Sharon Feingold, the IDF takes “the utmost care to pinpoint the tunnels and do as little damage as possible.”137

Without further information, Human Rights Watch cannot verify the IDF’s claims.  However, according to outside experts on tunnels, mines, and geology (see footnote 101), as well as technical engineering documents on tunnels published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, numerous options for tunnel detection and closure exist that would not involve dangerous and often violent incursions resulting in destroyed homes and sometimes loss of life.  Without further information from the IDF it is impossible to determine whether the Israeli military has pursued these options in good faith.  As the Occupying Power under international law, the IDF is obliged to pursue and implement all possible measures to minimize civilian harm.

There are no simple and comprehensively effective methods for detecting tunnels, but experts stressed that a combination of different techniques, many of which can compensate for each other’s shortcomings, should be effective, especially in a relatively small area where forces control and are familiar with the terrain.  “With a threshold of effort, tunnels are easier to defeat than they are to construct,” said Dr. Hatheway.  “Once you’re in place [the tunnelers] become very vulnerable.”138

The Rafah border is only four kilometers long and under IDF control.  The soil beneath Rafah consists mostly of a layer of dry, fine, sand above a layer of silty clay that has higher water content.  The groundwater surface in Rafah camp begins at approximately forty-five meters below the ground surface.139  Dry fine sand is difficult to tunnel in without reinforcement, because such ground tends to ravel (break apart), especially as it becomes dry from the air circulated for tunnel users.  Also, it is not technically feasible to construct and to operate tunnels below the groundwater surface without sophisticated pumping techniques.  Furthermore, such pumping requires the use of an electrical supply that would yield electromagnetic radiation detectable by geophysical sensors.   Thus, most tunnels in Rafah would need to be between ten and forty-five meters underground.  Tunneling in such conditions is still difficult and dangerous, requiring adequate ventilation and light.  Circulating air through tunnels tends to dry out soil, reducing cohesiveness and increasing the risk of collapse.  Moving and concealing displaced soil without attracting attention in densely populated neighborhoods is another considerable challenge.

Soil Composition in Rafah140


1-2 meters

Back fill

2-10 meters

Sand, very dense, fine

10-25 meters

silty clay, medium to high plasticity

25-27 meters

Sand silt, medium to high plasticity

27-57 meters


Tunnel detection methods generally aim at recognizing and measuring physical and/or chemical-property anomalies in the ground.  For example, the physical properties of air inside a tunnel tend to contrast sharply with those of the surrounding soil.  If the tunnels contain electrical wires, lights, and pulley mechanisms, as the IDF claims, then the presence of metals and other manmade materials, as well as the noise of installing and operating them, would all increase detectability.  According to three reports on tunnels issued by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, various techniques, often used in combination, have been used to successfully detect tunnels in places like the Mexico-U.S. border and the Korean DMZ.141  Based on research missions in more than fifteen tunnel sites around the world, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tunnel Detection Team recommends a combination of the following techniques depending on soil type, the amount of subterranean infrastructure or debris, and other local factors.   These techniques can be used from the surface, or by placing sensors in boreholes:

Seismic sensors – Seismic sensors measure vibrations in the ground to map the subsurface.  There are generally two types: passive and active.  Passive seismic sensors are essentially microphones (“geophones”) established on the ground surface or within boreholes in the ground to detect anomalies in the passage of actively induced vibrations or to passively record natural or manmade disturbances related to sounds or vibrations caused by activity in the tunnel.  Active seismic sensors require the pulsing of energy into the ground and recording the resulting reflection or refraction.  Sensors can be used on the surface or in boreholes dug along a border where tunneling activity is suspected.

Electromagnetic induction – EM induction measures the apparent electrical conductivity of materials in the ground.  The air in a tunnel, for example, has a much lower electrical conductivity than surrounding soil, especially if the soil is moist.  The existence of highly conductive materials such as metal from any rails, electrical wires, or supports would also be easier to detect.  By setting up two coils, one to create an electromagnetic field and another to receive it, the conductivity of the ground can be analyzed.

Electrical resistivity – This measures how well the soil resists electrical current (the inverse of conductivity).  By placing two electrodes in the ground, injecting an electrical current into the ground, and measuring the voltage difference between them, resistivity can be measured.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) – High frequency electromagnetic pulses are transmitted into the ground to detect “voids.”  With this technique, the GPR transmitter and sensor are combined in a wheeled, person-towed device that is pulled along at a nominal rate of a fraction of a meter per second.  As well, the frequency of the electromagnetic pulses can be adjusted, as long as the operators are equipped with a variety of alternative antennae to mount in the sensing device.  Penetration and resolution are negatively affected by water and natural clay minerals within the soil of the tunneling ground.  In dry soil, such as sand, GPR can generally penetrate up to ten meters underground and still detect anomalies such as the presence of the cross section of the tunnel (best employed when the GPR traverse is perpendicular to the tunnel axis).

Technologies also exist to detect tunnel digging activity rather than the tunnels themselves.  One detailed report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, entitled Cave and Tunnel Detection, a State-of-the-Art Assessment, suggested the deployment of underground seismic “fences” to detect tunneling activity.   Sensors placed in the ground would detect the vibrations caused by the construction of new tunnels which, according to Maj. Feingold, “are being dug as we speak.”  The U.S. government successfully tested an underground fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in 1999 to detect the digging of tunnels 1.5 meters wide in similar depths as in Rafah in an area with significantly more noise from surface automobile traffic.  “It’s a pretty remarkable thing,” said Dr. Lillian Wakeley of the U.S. Army’s Engineering Research and Development Center, who was involved with the test.  Wakeley said that the sensors detected and could differentiate the use of air hammers, hand picks, and other digging techniques.  She also described it as a cost-effective tool that was implemented without much difficulty: “It really isn’t rocket science.”142  Ordinary soldiers can be trained in tunnel detection techniques.

Use of these geophysical techniques on the border could obviate the perceived need for incursions and the systematic destruction of civilian homes.  Unlike human intelligence, which locates a tunnel’s exit in Rafah, techniques like electromagnetic induction and GPR might tell the IDF where a tunnel is crossing under the border.

Techniques have also been developed to neutralize tunnels once detected.  Special mixes of cement injected at high pressure and controlled use of explosives can be used to neutralize tunnels while minimizing harm to structures on the surface.  Generally speaking, smaller tunnels can be closed with less difficulty.  No demolitions of structures were employed to close tunnels on the U.S.-Mexico border, even though some of the houses used were also densely clustered within meters of the border.

When asked about alternative means of detecting tunnels, IDF Spokesman Maj. Assaf Librati provided some information, saying the IDF had detonated explosives fifteen to twenty meters under the ground to create “a seismic shock,” although he did not say whether these explosions were related to sensors for tunnel detection or to tunnel closure.  He also claimed the IDF had tried to put sensors in the ground, but he did not say whether these attempts were successful.  Given the vagueness of the information provided by the IDF, Human Rights Watch cannot determine with certainty whether the IDF has fully pursued all alternatives to minimize civilian harm, as required by international law.

One option the IDF has publicly explored is the construction of a four-kilometer trench along the Philadelphi Route.  Several weeks after the intense international criticism of the May 2004 demolitions, the Defense Ministry issued a tender for the trench’s construction.  As of October 2004, the Israeli cabinet had not yet approved the plan.

According to Major Librati, the early plan envisions a 300 meter wide “V” shaped trench some twenty meters deep at the center.  This would ostensibly allow the IDF to get closer to the cross-border tunnels while free of harassing weapons fire from Rafah.  Twenty meters beneath ground level, soldiers would not need to dig so deeply to deploy explosive charges.  Another option is to fill the trench with water like a moat to block tunnels or to flood them if penetrated.

The project as described is highly problematic on several grounds and may carry serious consequences for the welfare of the civilian population in the area.  First, the IDF has argued that construction of the trench may require further mass demolitions to widen the buffer zone, in order to reduce risk to those digging the trench.143  This would defeat the purpose of digging a trench in order to obviate the need for demolitions.

Even without demolitions, the project seems impractical from engineering and environmental perspectives.  The Rafah ground slopes gradually upward from west to east, so that a moat connected to the sea would require leveling the land at enormous cost, one water engineer said.144  If the moat is intended to reach both the water table and the Mediterranean Sea, it would mix sea water with underground drinking water, greatly exacerbating the already pressing water crisis in the Gaza Strip.  If the trench was filled with water from another source, it would have to be circulated regularly to prevent it from becoming stagnant and threatening public health.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Sharon Feingold, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Tel Aviv, July 6, 2004.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Assaf Librati, Spokesman, IDF Southern Command, Tel Aviv, July 25, 2004.

[84] Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics,, (accessed October 4, 2004). 

[85] Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000,” available at, as of August 17, 2004.  The IDF was unable to provide data on injuries in the Rafah area.

[86] “Weapons Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, May 2004, available at

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with Popular Resistance Committees commander, Rafah, July 15, 2004.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with “Abu Husayn” [pseudonym], al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Rafah, July 16, 2004.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahmoud Fathi, aged twenty-one, Rafah, July 15, 2004.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Said Mohammed Besiuni, Rafah, July 15, 2004.

[91] IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, “Rafah: A Weapons Factory and Gateway,” May 2004,

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with “Abu Husayn” [pseudonym], al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Rafah, July 16, 2004.

[93] This price roughly matches the figure of 25-29 shekels given by a smuggler to the newspaper Ha’aretz in May.  See Amira Hass, “Philadelphi Smuggler: It’s Harder Now to Get Through,” Ha’aretz, May 25, 2004. 

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Ibrahim Abu Shittat, Rafah, July 13, 2004.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Najjar, aged thirty-five, Rafah, July 22, 2004.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Moussa Sarafandi, aged fifty-three, Rafah, July 22, 2004.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Eyad Zaqout, Jerusalem, July 24, 2004.

[98] Communication from Marwan Dalal, Adalah staff attorney, September 20, 2004.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed al-Namla, aged twenty-six, Rafah, July 15, 2004.

[100] Human Rights Watch interviews with Dr. Allen Hatheway, University of Missouri; Dr. Lillian Wakeley, U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center; and one tunnel expert who wished to remain unnamed.  Human Rights Watch also spoke with Brett R. Lenz M.S., Principal, Columbia Geotechnical Associates Inc. about geophysical detection techniques and with Rose Butler, Sales Assistant at Sensors & Software Inc., a Canada-based producer of GPR.

[101] In addition to the reporting of Amira Hass in Ha’aretz cited in this report, a number of foreign journalists have written about the tunnels, based upon conversations with Rafah residents and the IDF.  See, inter alia, Mitch Potter, “In Gaza, the Tunnels Lead to Death,” Toronto Star, February 29, 2004; Conal Urquhart, “Palestinians tunnel to freedom,” Guardian, November 2, 2003 (featuring an interview with an alleged tunnel-digger); Cameron Barr, “Life and Death Amid the Ruins of Rafah,” Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2003.

[102] “Weapons Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, May 2004.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with Yusuf Abu Siyam, PNA Preventive Security, Rafah, July 14, 2004.

[104] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Ali Shehada Ali Barhoum, Rafah, July 15, 2004.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Sharon Feingold, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Tel Aviv, July 6, 2004.

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with Major Assaf Librati, Spokesman, IDF Southern Command, Tel Aviv, July 25, 2004.

[107] See, for example,

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Nadav Neuhaus, Jerusalem, July 3, 2004.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with Yusuf Abu Siyam, PNA Preventive Security, Rafah, July 14, 2004.

[110] Human Rights Watch interview with Taleb Abu Sharikh, PNA Preventive Security, Rafah, July 14, 2004.

[111] “Weapons Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, May 2004.

[112] Human Rights Watch interview with General Ahmed Omar, Egyptian Interior Ministry, Cairo, July 28, 2004.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with Major Assaf Librati, Spokesman, IDF Southern Command, Tel Aviv, July 25, 2004.

[114] “Weapons Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, May 2004.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with Major Assaf Librati, Spokesman, IDF Southern Command, Tel Aviv, July 25, 2004.

[116] Amira Hass, “Philadelphi Smuggler: It’s Harder Now to Get Through,” Ha’aretz, May 25, 2004.

[117] “Weapons Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, May 2004.

[118] According to UNWRA, between the start of the current uprising and the beginning of 2003, the IDF demolished 418 houses in the Rafah area.

[119] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Allen Hatheway, September 17, 2004.

[120] Arieh O’Sullivan, “IDF Gets New Tunnel-Busting Unit,” Jerusalem Post, June 4, 2004.  The size of the unit and its date of formation were roughly corroborated by an Israeli journalist who followed dozens of tunnel-hunting missions in Rafah (Human Rights Watch interview with Nadav Neuhaus, Jerusalem, July 3, 2004).

[121] Arieh O’Sullivan, “IDF Gets New Tunnel-Busting Unit,” Jerusalem Post, June 4, 2004.

[122] Amira Hass, “Philadelphi Smuggler: It’s Harder Now to Get Through,” Ha’aretz, May 25, 2004.

[123] Curiously, the list described some of the tunnels as being nine and ten meters wide, respectively.  When asked to confirm these figures, a soldier from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit insisted that the figures were correct.  In a subsequent interview with Human Rights Watch, however, Maj. Librati insisted that they could not be accurate.  Human Rights Watch asked for further clarification from the IDF and was told that the dimensions reflected the width of the tunnels after being destroyed by the IDF (Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Major Sam Wiedermann, Head of International Organizations Desk, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, August 26, 2004).

[124] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Major Sam Wiedermann, Head of International Organizations Desk, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, August 26, 2004.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Zakia Timraz, aged forty-seven, Rafah, July 22, 2004.

[126] Human Rights Watch interview with Ismail Abu Libda, aged nineteen, Rafah, July 22, 2004.

[127] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with “Abu Husayn” [pseudonym], al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad, July 23, 2004.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with Ismail Abu Libda, aged nineteen, Rafah, July 22, 2004.

[129] “2 Weapon Smuggling Tunnels were uncovered,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, July 22, 2004, available at

[130] Human Rights Watch telephone interview, September 2, 2004.

[131] Human Rights Watch interview with Mahmoud al-Mghali, Rafah, July 14, 2004.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with Taleb Abu Sharikh, Rafah, July 14, 2004.  The tunnel in the Abu Na’ama house was also reported in Cameron Barr, “Life and Death Amid the Ruins of Rafah,” Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2003.

[133] Cameron Barr, “Life and Death Amid the Ruins of Rafah,” Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 2003.

[134] “Rafah’s Second Front,” by Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, June 14, 2004.

[135] Human Rights Watch interview with Mansour Abu Mu’amer, Rafah, July 14, 2004; the tunnel closure was also confirmed by Taleb Abu Sharikh and mentioned in Amira Hass, “The Ridiculous Flyer,” Ha’aretz, June 10, 2004.  Human Rights Watch also spoke to another neighbor, Yusuf Namla, who saw the PNA police come to the Babli house to close the tunnel, though he did not see the closure himself (Human Rights Watch interview with Yusuf Namla, aged twenty-six, July 15, 2004).

[136] Amira Hass, “The Ridiculous Flyer,” Ha’aretz, June 10, 2004.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Maj. Sharon Feingold, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Tel Aviv, July 6, 2004.

[138] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Allen Hatheway, September 17, 2004.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Yaqubi, Palestinian Water Authority, Gaza City, July 17, 2004.

[140] Well Completion Report, Comp 7 A/B, Saqqa & Khoudary Co. Ltd., Gaza Demonstration Project, March 2004.

[141] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Cave and Tunnel Detection, a State-of-the-art Assessment,” Troy R. Brosten, Robert F. Ballard and Lillian D. Wakeley, April 2003, “Geophysical Methods for Detecting Cavities,” U.S. Army Engineer R & D Center, May 2003, and “Detecting Tunnels and Man-made Subterranean Features:  Geosciences for Border and Regional Security,” U.S. Army Engineer Tunnel Detection Team Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, June 15, 2004.

[142] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Lillian Wakeley, U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center, September 7, 2004.

[143] Amos Harel, “IDF May Invite Senior Legal Officials to Tour Rafah,” Ha’aretz, August 13, 2004.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed Yaqubi, Palestinian Water Authority, Gaza City, July 17, 2004.

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