Israelis living near the border with Gaza are growing increasingly concerned about terror tunnels being rebuilt by the Iran-backed terror group Hamas, and have reported hearing the sounds of new tunnels being dug, The Telegraph reported Monday.
Residents of Israeli towns like Netiv Ha’asara, who live close enough to Gaza to see Palestinians on the other side of the border, fear the possibility of attacks through the newly-built terror tunnels.
Dalia Levy, a mother of three, recorded the digging sounds she and her family have heard. “I’m afraid that terrorists will appear from below my house and burst in and attack my children,” she told The Telegraph. The recording is embedded below.
Their fear has been magnified since IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said last month that countering the tunnel threat was the army’s “number one mission this year.” Eisenkot’s statement showed that he prioritized the tunnel threat over Hezbollah’s growing rocket capability to Israel’s north or the threat from ISIS in the Sinai.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh indicated last month that his forces were preparing for a new conflict with Israel, saying, “In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets.”
Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its terror tunnel network to threaten Israeli civilians has been shown by a number of tunnel collapses in recent weeks, which have killed at least eleven terrorists.
Ayelet Schachar-Epstein, a resident of a kibbutz less than a mile from the Gaza border, said that she fears the tunnels even more than rocket fire, though her home is in mortar range of Gaza. “I put my kids to into bed and before I read a storybook to my five-year-old I have this movie in my head,” she said. “All of a sudden a group of these terrorists enter my home and are coming to murder me and my children. Then I remembers: it’s not a movie, it’s our real life here.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power traveled to the Gaza border last week to hear accounts of what it was like to live in the shadow of threats from Hamas. One mother who met with Power said, “We have to explain to our children that there are no monsters under the bed, but there are tunnels….We do not know if a terrorist will come up from the tunnel.”
Ha’aretz military analyst Amos Harel wrote last month that Hamas had built at least as many attack tunnels as it had before its 2014 war with Israel. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote an analysis for the Gatestone Institute last week arguing that the effort and expense that Hamas has invested in rebuilding the tunnels, even as Gaza remains mired in poverty, showed that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
A 2015 study conducted by Prof. Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, a director at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, found that 40 percent of children in Sderot, a city near the Gaza border that is frequently subjected to rocket attacks, experience symptoms of anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the IDF, Palestinian groups have launched over 11,000 rockets at Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, with over five million Israeli civilians living under threat of rocket fire.
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