At least five members of Hamas were injured after a tunnel collapsed in the southeastern section of the Gaza Strip on Saturday night, The Times of Israel reported, citing Palestinian media.
Authorities in Gaza are searching for an undisclosed number of men missing in the collapse, which has yet to be officially confirmed. The five wounded tunnelers were transferred to a local hospital.
While it isn’t clear why so many tunnels have caved-in, some have speculated that heavy winter rains in the region may have played a role.
IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, chief coordinator of government activities in the territories, declined to confirm or deny whether Israel had a hand in causing the collapses. “God knows,” he said. “I would suggest the residents of the Gaza Strip not to occupy themselves with the tunnels and to get away from them, especially after seeing the results in recent days.”
Hamas produced a video in August showing that it was rebuilding tunnels and restocking its arsenal after the 2014 war with Israel, even while efforts to rebuild civilian structures were lagging. Amos Harel, military correspondent for Haaretz, wrote last month that Hamas is believed to have as many tunnels now as it did prior to the 2014 war. Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh added earlier this month that the expense and effort that Hamas is putting into building the tunnels while Gaza remains mired in poverty shows that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
According to Egyptian authorities, Hamas has been spending the equivalent of $140 million annually to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure. Sources have estimated that as many as 400 people have died in the terrorist group’s tunnels, including more than 160 child laborers.
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