the first to be detected since the end of the last war in Gaza in 2014. The tunnel – about 30-40 metres deep, lined with concrete slabs and equipped with communication lines, air supply and rails for further excavation – was uncovered last week although its existence was confirmed only on Monday. The tunnel reportedly entered Israel in an area some distance from Israeli military bases and civilian homes. Speaking at a media briefing, Lt Col Peter Lerner said the tunnel extended several hundred metres under Israel and was large enough for a man to stand in. ["Israeli military uncovers first Hamas tunnel into Israel since 2014 war", The Guardian, April 18, 2016]This week's came accompanied with some interesting side stories:
- Israel's Shin Bet revealed just a few hours before Thursday's announcement of the second tunnel that it had captured Mohammad Atuna, 29, a terrorist from Gaza in the service of Hamas and possessing "large amounts of information about the tunnel network". He had been taken into custody in early April, before the report of the first tunnel discovery, though at the time, a Haaretz report, referring to him as Sami al-Atawna, implied that Hamas was denying that he was in Israeli hands.
- There were and are heavy hints in the Israeli media about the extent to which this Atuna has been helpful to their inquiries. He has detailed "the existence of a warren of Hamas tunnels within Gaza itself to be used to ferry fighters and equipment around the Gaza Strip, including rooms for relaxation equipped with showers and mess halls in order to improve the lives of the fighters."
- It's reported that Atuna has also given up detailed tunnel locations and routes, as well as related information about the techniques used in tunnel construction and other logistical aspects of Hamas’ tunnel strategy. This includes disclosure of the workings of the so-called "Nakba" terrorist unit which is trained "for fighting within Israeli territory".
- Ynet says he gave up details of Hamas's use of private homes and other buildings to hide tunnel construction activity, and pointed out where digging projects were occurring, and the locations of tunnel shafts to be used in the planned attacks. In addition, he handed over the names of many Hamas operatives and their positions within the organization, detailed locations of weapons storage facilities, many of them inside civilian homes.
- Ynet: "Atuna admitted to having massive amounts of arms at his house, including IEDs, rifles, and suicide vests. He was supposed to give these items out to fighters in the event of another round of fighting."
- He described two classes of tunnel; those within Gaza via which its terrorists can maneuver to hide and to outflank IDF forces; and cross-border tunnels for carrying out attacks on Israeli forces and civilians. "Hamas has invested millions of dollars to enable their Special Forces operatives to stay underground for weeks at a time, lying in wait until the order is given to attack Israel."
The jihadists have much to lose now that the offensive apparatus is revealed and being dismantled. So on Tuesday, Hamas
directed cross-border gun fire at an IDF engineering vehicle near southern Gaza [Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2016]And then during, and since, yesterday's uncovering, Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope area have continued to come under fire from the Gazan side for what Haaretz, quoting the IDF, calls
the first time since the end of the 2014 war that Hamas had opened fire on Israeli operations on the ground. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad released statements warning Israel against any escalation. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said it was ready to respond to Israeli strikes. “We will not permit this aggression to continue and the enemy should not invoke any reason, and should leave the Strip immediately”... [Haaretz, May 5, 2016]Vehicles have been damaged on the Israeli side but we're pleased to say there have been no injuries to Israelis up until this point.
An IDF spokesperson said yesterday that the shooting is "a result of Hamas identifying that the Israel Defence Forces were closing in on those assets" i,e, the attack-tunnels. That fire, mortars so far, has continued this morning. A Times of Israel report says a mortar attack on Israeli soldiers this morning working on Gaza's southern-most flank was the twelfth such assault in the past four days.
The Arab media carry reports this morning [like this one] of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad where they have boasted of their tunneling strategy, warning Israel to back off lest the IDF's "violence... pushes the resistance to reciprocate" and issuing a reminder that "Israeli crimes will not break the spirit" of the Gazan Palestinian Arabs. Hamas' arch-terrorist Ismail Haniyeh says today that the Israelis have penetrated "150 to 199 meters on the pretext of searching for tunnels" [source] and that his murderous group "will not under any circumstance accept these incursions".
Putting Haniyeh's absurd use of "pretext" into a factual context, it has only been a few weeks - certainly long enough for most reporters to forget - that he said Hamas
will never stop digging tunnels and upgrading rockets in preparation for any possible confrontation with Israel [Jerusalem Post]Hamas is seriously committed to tunnels. It's estimated they have more than 1,000 of its loyalists working to build and extend them at an overall cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. Workers are paid US $300 to 400 per month. It's not such a great deal for them, though they probably have little option. Arab media reports quoted by Israel National News in mid-April said the death toll from a series of "mysterious" Gazan tunnel collapses since January 2016 had reached 20, most of them actual terrorists - and not merely laborers - from its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.