Hamas Training Camps in the Judean Desert
by Hana Levi Julian
September 6, 2009
Israel National News
A complex network of caves embedded in the hills of the Judean Desert have become the latest venue for individualized Hamas terrorist training programs.
Evidence that Hamas terrorists have been training operatives right under the noses of the Palestinian Authority was found by IDF soldiers in a complex network of tunnels and caves during a raid earlier this summer. Etzion Brigade Col. Eran Makov led the raid, which was carried out after military officials received a tip from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
Empty bullet casings and cartridges were found in some of the caves, as well as other bits of evidence of military activity, according to a senior military official quoted in a report published Sunday by The Jerusalem Post.
This is not the first time that terrorist tunnels have been found in Judea and Samaria.
Eleven months ago, IDF soldiers uncovered a 150-meter-long tunnel packed with explosives under the southern Judean city of Hevron. The tunnel had not been completed, and was angled towards Route 35, near Tarkumiya, according to the report.
An entire network of tunnels used by terrorists to launch attacks against IDF soldiers was also discovered in 2007 in the Casbah, the inner part of the open air market in the Samarian city of Shechem.
Both the IDF and the PA have been working to crack down on the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. As a result, it is believed that only a few terrorists were trained together in the Judean Desert at any given time.
Much of Judea is honeycombed with caves, many of which provided shelter for Arabs who lived in the region even as recently as a generation ago.
Just below the southern Hevron Hills, in fact, allegedly lie the ruins of most of the village of Iscariot, known in Hebrew as the "Kraiyot" -- an area marked by an entire complex of caves.
Many of the entrances have even been decorated by local Bedouin whose families lived in the caves, with stones taken from the remains of Byzantine churches, the descendant of one Bedouin tribe told Israel National News.
The same caves served in earlier centuries as living quarters for the ancient Jews during the Roman occupation and the Byzantine era.
"It is like the Tora Bora of the West Bank," said a senior Central Command officer. The appellation is a reference to the network of caves allegedly used by Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan.
Tour guide Younis Abu Hamad explains how the ancient residents of Judea "decorated" the homes they built from caves hidden in the desert hills.
IDF uncovers Hamas 'Tora Bora' cave system