Israel Targets Weapons-Smuggling Tunnels

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The Israeli army is dropping plans to build a wide moat along Gaza's border with Egypt to thwart weapons smuggling tunnels, favoring a less-invasive barrier of concrete, fences and underground walls instead, military officials said Wednesday.

The military decided to drop its original plan, which would have required the large-scale demolition of Palestinian homes, after it became clear the attorney general would likely oppose those plans.

The project centers on the so-called Philadelphi corridor (search), the Israeli controlled buffer zone, and scene of the most intense fighting during the last four years of violence.

While Israel plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip (search) over the summer, it has said it will not immediately leave the corridor because of ongoing arms smuggling through the tunnels. Israel has said it wants to withdraw from the route in the future and has begun coordinating security issues with Egypt that would make such a pullback possible.

Israel had initially planned to block the tunnels by building an 80-foot-deep, 3-mile-long, sea water-filled trench, which would have required the demolition of 200 to 3,000 Palestinian homes in nearby Rafah — where hundreds of homes have already been demolished.

The army, though, has decided Attorney General Meni Mazuz would reject that plan and has come up with a less-invasive design that was presented to defense officials this week, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

The new barrier will consist of a complex of eight-yard-high concrete walls, an underground concrete barrier, fences and other technologies to detect underground digging. A steel wall already runs the length of Rafah.

The army has uncovered several tunnels that militants have used to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Also Wednesday Israeli troops discovered a makeshift bomb factory near the West Bank town of Jenin, the army said. The troops found several pipe bombs and the raw ingredients to manufacture dozens more, the army said.

The troops found several pipe bombs and the raw ingredients to manufacture dozens more in the chamber, the army said. Israeli media reported that the soldiers found a rocket in the initial stages of production, but the military could not confirm the report.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired hundreds of homemade rockets at Israeli towns and settlements, but the militants have not yet duplicated the technology in the West Bank.

On Tuesday the military said it captured a militant from the Islamic Jihad group who told his interrogators that there were plans to fire rockets from the West Bank at nearby Israeli towns. The army said the plan failed due to "technical difficulties."