Hamas is digging new terror tunnels underneath the border with Israel.
Last week reporters of TV Channel 10 in Israel aired an audio recording from the tunnel drilling, recorded in the living room of residents of an Israeli village 4.5 kilometers from the border. Sounds of a hammer drilling underneath the floor of the room were clearly audible.
The report led to a public outcry about the inaction of the Israeli Defense Force and the Israeli government against this renewed threat. The IDF investigated the complaint and found the claim of the drilling baseless. It is widely known, however, that Hamas is digging day and night to rebuild the tunnels destroyed during the war with Israel in the summer of 2014.
During that war, Hamas launched several attempts to carry out large-scale terror attacks against civilian targets in Israel via the tunnels. The IDF destroyed 32 out of 49 terror tunnels and Israel later announced that by doing so, the army had foiled a large Hamas terror plot to launch simultaneous attacks on Israeli border communities during the celebrations of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) in the autumn of 2014.
This video shows how one of the Hamas tunnel attacks during the 2014 war was foiled by the IDF:
The new system includes an upgrade of the current electronic fence along the border and would cost an estimated $708 million. Funding of the system had not been earmarked in the current defense budget, but Moshe Kahlon, Israel’s Finance Minister, said today his ministry would provide the funding of the new fence.
Members of the opposition have criticized the government for not taking appropriate action against the tunnels and have said Israel should take preemptive action to take out the tunnel threat to the border communities in the Gaza region.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called upon the government “to stop hesitating and instruct the Israel Defense Forces to bomb the tunnels and destroy this threat.” Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman even announced in a Channel 2 TV interview that the IDF should liquidate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh because he threatened Israel, saying the digging of the tunnels is part of the preparations for the next war with Israel.
Haniyeh claimed the tunnels were for the defense of the Palestinian people and the liberation of the Palestinian holy places.
“There are those who think that the calm is a time of rest, but this is a continuation of the struggle,” the Hamas leader said last week while revealing that the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were taking part in the tunnel digging (Fatah is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas). “Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are working and preparing for Palestine. Fighters are digging twice as much as the number of tunnels dug in Vietnam. In east Gaza, there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine,”
However, before Israel could take action against the renewed tunnel threat extraordinary things happened.
Seven members of Hamas military wing Izz al-Din Al-Qassam were killed Jan. 27 while digging a new tunnel in the al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City. The tunnel suddenly collapsed when a group of Hamas members was digging and drilling. The accident could be caused by flooding of the area during the winter storm that hit Israel last week.
Wednesday, another tunnel collapsed in the southern Gaza Strip killing two Hamas members. This was followed by two other incidents in which tunnels collapsed on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Eight Hamas members are reportedly missing after the last two incidents.
The Israeli news site NRG reported last week the collapse of the tunnels could be related to the activities of the Egyptian army that has taken draconian measures to eliminate the tunnel industry underneath the border with Gaza in the city of Rafah.
The Egyptians have destroyed hundreds of homes in the border region and leveled the whole area before digging a deep moat that was filled with sea water last year. The water caused flooding in the tunnels in Gaza and could have been the reason for the recent accidents.
The Palestinians, however, claim that Israel could be behind the mysterious collapses. When the coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Yoav Mordechai, was asked by Palestinian journalists if Israel had a hand in the recent collapses he said: ” God only knows.” Indeed, some people in Israel think the mysterious collapses are divine retribution for the continuing Palestinian Arab terror attacks on Israelis.
Mordechai said that Hamas is diverting humanitarian aid and UN-supplied building materials that were meant for the rehabilitation of destroyed houses in Gaza to the tunnel industry. COGAT reported that 3,5 million tons of building materials have been brought into Gaza but little has done to reconstruct damaged and destroyed houses since the 2014 war. UNWRA reported this week that it still provides blankets, mats, mattresses, kitchen sets, gas stoves, tarpaulin sheets and/or nylon sheets to residents of Gaza who lost their houses during the war.
“60,300 refugee families have not received any payments to undertake repair works for their minor damaged homes, Further, 3,200 families have not received any payments to repair or start repairing their major damaged homes and 3,380 families have not received payments to repair or start repairing their severely damaged homes,” UNWRA reported today.
The UN agency added in her weekly report that only 7 of the 2,000 houses that were damaged or destroyed during the fighting in the summer of 2014 have been fully reconstructed while work on 162 others is still ongoing. Much of the infrastructure in Gaza still lies in ruins and the population suffers from severe electricity shortages.
The new UNWRA report proved Mordechai’s claim about the theft of building materials by Hamas right. Think about it, 3,5 million tons of building materials were transferred to Gaza and only 7 houses have been rebuilt and 162 are in the process of reconstruction.
Tunnels were not the only structures that collapsed in Gaza this week. During the funeral of the seven Hamas members killed in the first tunnel accident, a roof collapsed causing panic among the men who were taking part in the procession.
The accident was recorded on video too:
Here are video images of the revelation of the ” captured Israeli Merkava tank”:
A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister’s office later made clear the so-called “tank” was actually a wooden replica placed on top of a vehicle whose wheels were visible on the bottom.