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Report: Hamas Fighters Fear Entering Terror Tunnels after Spate of Collapses

Frequent collapses of terror attack tunnels in recent weeks has made Hamas fighters afraid of entering them, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.

A tunnel collapse Thursday that killed one Hamas terrorist was at least the sixth in recent weeks. Five terrorists were injured in a tunnel collapse last week, and eleven others have been killed in a series of such collapses.

Despite reports attributing the collapses to heavy rains, many Hamas members reportedly believe that Israel is causing the collapses. Hamas terrorists have seen Israel engaging in countermeasures against the terror tunnels. One Hamas member speculated that Israel has liquid explosives that can cause the tunnels to collapse, while another believed that Israel can cause localized earthquakes.

When asked last week if Israel was causing the tunnel collapses, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, chief coordinator of government activities in the territories, said “God knows.” He added that Gaza residents would be well-advised “not to occupy themselves with the tunnels and to get away from them, especially after seeing the results in recent days.”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has stated that Hamas can’t prevent the tunnel collapses and that it has found Israeli technology underground.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday (Google link) that Israel has been deploying a system to thwart the tunnels called “The Obstacle,” which is being partly funded by the United States. The Obstacle is said to include acoustic sensors to detect underground digging, but other details of the system remain secret.

In addition to The Obstacle, which is not expected to be totally effective at first, Israel has also been training soldiers for subterranean combat, and is building a training facility in the north called Snir, which reportedly will have hundreds of meters of tunnels. The IDF is also spending millions of dollars on enhancing the capabilities of its Yahalom engineering unit, buying robots and other equipment to help soldiers gain an understanding of the tunnels’ structure and destroy them without endangering nearby buildings.

Israel began seeking effective countermeasures to the tunnels in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when communities and bases along the Gaza border were attacked several times. Israel uncovered and destroyed 32 tunnels during the conflict, but Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel reported in January that Hamas had currently has nearly the same of number of tunnels it had 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. A Gaza construction worker told the Journal that cement intended for rebuilding homes in Gaza is often diverted for the building of tunnels.

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]