Six Gazans Trapped in Most Recent Tunnel Collapse

At least six residents of Gaza are trapped after a smuggling tunnel collapsed Thursday. This is the sixth reported tunnel collapse since January.

A local defense official told the AFP news agency that the tunnel, which went from Rafah under the Egyptian border, was a “trade tunnel.” Egyptian authorities have been flooding the tunnels in an effort to combat the smuggling of weapons and goods. The six trapped men have been in touch with authorities by phone.

The latest collapse occurred amid reports that Hamas is building tunnels large enough to accommodate trucks carrying weapons. Egyptian security officials were quoted by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot as saying that Hamas was building 3-mile-long “mega-tunnels” into the Sinai. Both Egyptian and Israeli intelligence services believe that Hamas is involved in arms smuggling with the Sinai-based affiliate of ISIS, which is fighting its own war against the Egyptian government.

Israeli officials said that don’t know of any plans for Hamas to build such large tunnels on Gaza’s border with Israel. The Israeli officials that the likely reason for the tunnel collapses has been the lack of concrete and wood to reinforce the newly built terror tunnels, which are being build in sandy earth.

Israel has reportedly been working on countermeasures to the tunnels, including a secretive system dubbed “The Obstacle” that may include acoustic sensors to detect underground digging. Hamas has suggested that Israel has been responsible for the collapses.  The frequency of the tunnel collapses has reportedly caused many Hamas fighters to be scared of entering them.

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, tunnels were used to attack communities and bases along the Gaza border several times. Israel uncovered and destroyed 32 tunnels during the conflict, but Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel reported in January that Hamas currently has nearly the same number of tunnels that it did before the war. The terror group devoted significant resources during the past year and a half to rebuilding its terror infrastructure at the expense of civilian needs.

[Photo: CNN / YouTube ]