|Coal mine working children, Pennsylvania 1911 [Image Source]|
This comes hard on the heels of another shocking revelation based on a from the Institute for Palestine Studies ["Gaza's Tunnel Phenomenon: The Unintended Dynamics of Israel's Siege", Nicolas Pelham, 2012] that the tunnel constructions were marked by a "cavalier" approach by Hamas officialsSources in Gaza told the website that Hamas took a series of precautions to prevent information from reaching Israel. The terror organization would reportedly blindfold the excavators en route to the sites and back, to prevent them from recognizing the locations. The tunnels were strictly supervised by Hamas members, and civilians were kept far from the sites…
to child labor and tunnel fatalities [damaging] the movement’s standing with human-rights groups, despite government assurances dating back to 2008 that it was considering curbs. During a police patrol that the author was permitted to accompany in December 2011, nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels, where, much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies. At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials [and] perceptions of corruption inside the organization have intensified. During the renewed fuel shortages of spring 2012, there were widespread allegations that Hamas leaders received uninterrupted electricity and that gasoline stations continued to operate for the exclusive use of Hamas members. True or not, they fed a growing mood of recrimination that Hamas had profited...A recent article by Lee Smith ["The Underground War on Israel", The Weekly Standard, August 4, 2014] explains how the Gaza tunnels morphed in recent years from being a source of illicit income for Hamas insiders and assorted other fat-cats, as well as a way of circumventing the Israeli embargo on certain imports, into a strategic weapon. An Israeli strategic analyst is quoted:
"If you multiply tunnels, you can use them to send hundreds of fighters into Israel and create havoc, totally under cover. According to Hamas, the tunnels have changed the balance of power." Israeli officials have expressed amazement at the extent of the tunnel network. “Food, accommodations, storage, resupply,” one astonished official told reporters last week. “Beneath Gaza,” he explained, there’s “another terror city.” That is, Hamas’s tunnel network is evidence of a military doctrine, both a countermeasure to Israel’s clear air superiority and an offensive capability that threatens to take ground combat inside Israel itself, targeting villages, cities, and civilians as well as soldiers. Israel perhaps should not have been surprised to discover the size and seriousness of Hamas’s tunnel network because they’ve seen something similar before, in the aftermath of the 2006 war with Hezbollah. And indeed it was Iran’s long arm in Lebanon that helped build Hamas’s tunnels.The North Koreans - "the leading tunnel experts in the world" according to North Korea expert Bruce Bechtol - have played a major enabling role:
It’s nothing new for the North Koreans to work with terrorist groups... It started with the Polisario, the North African, and at one time Soviet-funded, terrorist group fighting the Moroccan government. “The North Koreans built them underground facilities, command and control, hospitals,” says Bechtol. “All of it was supported by Soviets, but that changed with the end of the Cold War, when the North Koreans offered their services on a cash and carry basis only.” Their top customer is the Islamic Republic of Iran. The North Koreans, Bechtol says, have helped build some of the Iranians’ underground nuclear weapons facilities, as well as Hezbollah’s underground network. “They built it in 2003-04, coming into Lebanon disguised as houseboys serving the Iranians. Maybe nobody asked, hey, how come these houseboys are speaking Korean?” The significance of the tunnels became clear in the 2006 war, as Bechtol explains. “It lowered Hezbollah’s casualty rate. The Israelis wondered why the air force was not inflicting more damage and it was because of those tunnels. It was the first time Hezbollah was ever truly protected.”Certainly a far cry from those coal mines of a century ago.
UPDATE Monday 7:00 pm: A Times of Israel report this evening quotes an IDF source and Israel Radio saying Israel has lab-tested two systems for finding tunnels. Field testing is now underway. The systems could be operational along the Gaza border within a year. A cost range of US$288 to $432 million is quoted, without explaining what it covers. Let's stay optimistic.