In the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas overnight which saw more than 170 rockets and mortars fired into Israel, Israeli forces struck around 140 targets in Gaza. Among them were “a factory where the terror groups constructs the concrete blocks it uses for attack tunnels and a fully operational tunnel opening near the Gaza coast belonging to Hamas’ naval commando unit” according to the Times of Israel. Israel has destroyed a number of such terror tunnels over the last two years, and while the problem is not solved, as Gabrielle Burack reported in the latest Australia/Israel Review edition, new Israeli technological solutions are expected to at least significantly reduce this threat.
Although not in the headlines quite as often as the “terror tunnels” Hamas and associated terrorist groups in the Gaza strip construct into Israel to kill or kidnap soldiers and civilians, the subterranean tunnel economy between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt is just as important and just as dangerous.
According to one Palestinian interviewed by the Guardian, “if there were no tunnels, there would be such a heavy price that it would force Hamas to sit and find a solution” to the blockade. For all the Egyptian and Israeli efforts to destroy them, the tunnel business continues – though there are signs that Egyptian efforts are making a significant dent, albeit at a very high price to local residents.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after the violent conquest by Hamas, which uncompromisingly advocates violence and the destruction of Israel. Hamas has partially offset this state of affairs by building thousands of tunnels that honeycomb the entirety of Gaza itself and extend hundreds of metres or even kilometres into both Israel and Egypt, forming a “tunnel village” for the transfer of every sort of good, from medicine, clothing, food, and fuel to cars, weapons, livestock, and even people.
These tunnels range in size and sophistication, from small and shallow dirt passages to massive and electrified corridors over sixty feet underground, some large enough to drive a truck through. Although certain tunnels are designated solely for military operations or smuggling certain goods, they are dual use, occasionally running into both Egypt and Israel and allegedly rivalling the Viet Cong’s Chu Chi tunnel network during the Vietnam War.