One of Israel’s greatest wars is not happening above ground, but rather underground. Hamas, the leading terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, has for many years been secretly operating a network of underground tunnels. Under the supervision of engineers, Hamas continually digs dozens of underground tunnels which are used to attack and kidnap Israelis and smuggle weapons in and out of the Gaza Strip.
With the help of civilian sympathizers in Gaza, the tunnels in Gaza are as much of a threat as weaponry. A senior officer in the IDF Intelligence Corps said that “Our estimate is that there are tens of tunnels from Gaza into Israel, only half of which we know about.” He pointed out that Hamas uses only the best to build and sustain these tunnels: “Hamas pays professionals to train special military units that have one simple purpose: to dig and tunnel underground.”
Hamas’ military wing is in charge of engineering and building the secret tunnels. The IDF approximates that twenty percent of Hamas’ budget is directed into building tunnels inside Gaza, many of which ultimately into Israel. “Tunneling has existed [in Gaza] since the mid 1990s, but it has really grown into an industry,” the officer said. “More funds are invested in it – we’re talking about millions of dollars every year – and the need for engineers are growing.”
In October 2013, the IDF discovered a tunnel that was approximately 1.7 kilometers long and 18 meters deep. It was built by terrorists in the Gazan city of Khan Yunis and stretched deep into the Israeli city of Ein Hashlosha.
One of the most famous and successful uses of these tunnels by Hamas was in 2006. Armed terrorists crossed into Israel illegally via the tunnels and killed two soldiers. The third soldier they took hostage. His name is Gilad Shalit. For five and a half years, Shalit was held captive in Gaza, his location unknown. He was finally released on October 18, 2011 when Israel agreed to free 447 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
Along with the increase in terror tunnels, Hamas has also been rebuilding its weapons arsenal. One of the more frightening pieces of information is that Hamas has been successfully manufacturing its own rockets inside Gaza. The M-75 has the capacity to reach as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Regularly paraded on the streets of Gaza, Hamas is attempting to intimidate Israel while inspire youngsters in Gaza to join Hamas.
IDF Intelligence estimates Hamas’ current arsenal are more than 10,000 rockets, mortar shells, and ammunition. “They focus on rockets of higher quality,” explains the officer. “During operation Pillar of Defense, only five M-75 rockets were fired, but we expect more in a future conflict.”