May 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: 50 Rafah Tunnels to Egypt Unearthed

May 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel: 50 Rafah Tunnels to Egypt Unearthed

Latest Developments

Israel went public on May 17 with the discovery of 50 smuggling tunnels leading from the southern Gazan city of Rafah to Egypt. Defending Israel against South African-filed genocide allegations at the International Court of Justice, attorney Gilad Noam devoted part of his remarks to the ongoing military operation in Rafah, a focus of international pro-Palestinian advocacy.

In addition to hosting four Hamas battalions and their reinforcements from elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, Rafah is the site of “an intricate underground tunnel infrastructure that runs underneath the city and provides ample space for operatives, command and control rooms, and military equipment,” Noam said.

“Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah, from which approximately 50 tunnels cross into Egypt. These tunnels are used by Hamas to supply itself with weapons and ammunition, and could potentially be used to smuggle out of Gaza hostages or Hamas senior operatives.”

In an overnight phone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed his counterpart on the Rafah operation, which, Gallant’s office said, has so far entailed “the destruction of several terror tunnels, as well as efforts to locate hostages.” The statement did not mention neighboring Egypt.

Expert Analysis

“Israel has finally lifted the veil on one of the region’s open secrets: that the Egyptians, while cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in their midst, have been turning a blind eye and likely making a handsome profit off gun-running to Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian affiliate. This disclosure comes not a moment too soon. There are potentially dozens of hostages in Rafah — Americans among them, perhaps — who now face the prospect of being transported into the Egyptian Sinai, never to be seen again. The United States must use its diplomatic and military aid to Cairo to stop Cairo’s double game.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Israel has been nothing but patient with Egypt playing spoiler during this crisis. After Cairo refused to let in Palestinian refugees — a temporary measure that would have shortened the Gaza war — Jerusalem assented to the positioning of heavy Egyptian reinforcements in the supposedly demilitarized Sinai to seal off the Rafah border. And all the Israelis have got in return has been vitriol and, most recently, Egyptian support for the foul allegations being leveled against them at The Hague. President Sisi is supposed to be a pragmatist rather than a populist. This cannot continue.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Egypt Strains Historic Peace Treaty With Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Palestinian Authority Rejects Israeli Offer to Control Rafah Border Crossing,” FDD Flash Brief

IDF Takes Control of Gaza Side of Rafah Crossing,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Calls on Civilians to Evacuate Rafah,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

Egypt Israel Israel at War