Media coverage of last Sunday’s attack on an Israeli army outpost near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip by Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade is instructive on a number of levels. The militants “had dug a 350-meter long tunnel, and detonated 150 kilograms of explosives underneath the outpost,” reports Ha’aretz. The LATimes adds that the bombs were detonated by “remote control.” The explosion caused the structure to collapse, killing one soldier and injuring five others.
The New York Post called the attack “a deadly new low” perpetrated by “Palestinian terrorists.” Laura Kind at the LATimes reported that “Palestinian militants” had unleashed “a sophisticated new tactic.” The NYT called the attack “serious and unusual,” given the ambush that followed the bombing, and though it had been preceded by threats from Palestinian groups that they would unleash an “earthquake” upon Israel.
Since “Israel Insiders” in the media obsess over the uses of Palestinian tunnels for gunrunning and smuggling, it’s likely that they cannot not be surprised by their use for mining and sapping. Mining and sapping are tactics well over a thousand years old and feature prominently in Islamic-Arab military history. They are techniques Muslim armies developed during the Crusades for breaking through the thick stone walls of European-style fortifications. From hundreds of yards away, soldiers would tunnel up to the wall of a castle and dig caverns underneath its foundations. In the process, the wall would be propped up with a wooden frame, which would eventually be set on fire. When the frame buckled, the wall it propped up would collapse and foot soldiers would storm into the breach. Britannia calls this “the most effective means of capturing a castle.”
In Sunday’s ambush in Gaza, the Palestinians simply replaced the combustible support with explosives, and detonated the lot from afar. There was even a frontal attack on the collapsed fortification by organized groups of gunmen. Such an attack should have been both predictable and preventable. But you wouldn’t know that from the corporate media. The tactics were neither “new” nor especially “sophisticated.” And the ambush was not even technically a “terrorist” act, since it was an army structure that was attacked, not a civilian one. Israelis build walls and Palestinians undermine them, it seems straightforward enough.