"An Israeli tank was blown up for the first time Thursday night, killing three soldiers. A huge explosion ripped off its turret and split the 65-ton Merkava (Chariot) 3 in two as it charged up the Karni-Netzarim route in the Gaza Strip to reach a civilian bus under Palestinian gunfire.
DEBKAfile ’s military sources advance the theory that a hollow, multi-stage - probably magnetic - charge was used, possibly in combination with a powerful magnetic mine or mines. This form of sabotage has never been seen before in the Middle East. The charge may have fixed under the turret along the seams of its joins to the tank body and activated by remote control or radio signal. This would explain how the turret was ripped off.
As the tank approached the distressed bus, the smaller charge would have been detonated, releasing a shower of magnetic explosive particles, which adhered to the body of the tank and produced a blast more damaging than an anti-tank missile, especially in combination with a mine exploding underneath the tank. The Israeli Merkava was designed primarily for crew survivability under fire. The charges must have been expertly planted at the best points for penetrating its special 'spaced armor'.
This was the precisely the method employed by Osama bin Laden’s mujaheddin in the 1980s to sabotage Soviet T-72 tanks in Afghanistan, a technique taught them by their American instructors. Over the years, the method was passed on to al Qaeda terrorists in bin Laden’s training camps, for turning against American tanks when the time came. However, in the Afghan War of 2001, the Americans did not send tanks against al Qaeda but warplanes for which bin Laden had no response.
The aggravated Palestinian terror offensive in the week starting Sunday, February 10, betrays a distinct pattern. In the view of DEBKAfile’s military analysts, the Palestinians are drawing on the tactical expertise of three new elements which are conjoined by a common purpose: al Qaeda escapees from Afghanistan transferred to Lebanon; Iranian Revolutionary Guards who have joined them and Hizballah sabotage experts ...
That cycle [of violence] is a cocktail of terror hits, shooting attacks, rocket warfare and routine assaults directed against the Israeli military. Sunday, Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli servicewomen outside IDF Southern Command HQ in Beersheba. Monday, a Palestinian rocket crew tried and failed to deliver a Qasem-2 against the IDF’s Samariya Command base on the West Bank. All of Israel’s military installations must now be deemed targets of a Palestinian offensive boosted by new allies that may be only beginning.
All Qaeda’s first handprints showed up on Palestinian strikes against the IDF this week.
According to DEBKAfile’s military analysts, they caught Israeli military planners unprepared. In time, they will find an answer, but until they do, a rising toll of Israeli casualties cannot be ruled out.
The Palestinian leader is forging ahead to exploit every second of
the grace period granted him in the runup to the American offensive against
Iraq and Iran. During that period, Washington is holding Israel back from
a full-scale assault on the Palestinian machine of war and terror. However,
Arafat is activating that machine to its full extent in the hope of prematurely
provoking a full-scale counter-assault and railroading Israel into incurring
the blame for plunging the Middle East into a wholesale conflagration."