Hamas is boasting of concerns that its tunnels may reach Israeli homes near the Gaza Strip, even as fear and dissent continue to grow in the terror group’s ranks following a spate of recent tunnel collapses, Israel Hayom reported on Friday.
“Zionists are worried there are tunnels underneath their communities near the border fence,” claimed one Hamas website, while others published pictures of what they claimed to be equipment employed by Israel to detect the tunnels.
Speculation over whether and how Israel has been causing the tunnels to cave in has been rife in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas has not officially blamed Israel for the collapses, which killed at least a dozen men in seven incidents since the beginning of January, the group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh did accuse Israel of destroying the tunnels. Members of Hamas reportedly fear and have even refused orders to enter the group’s tunnels, with some speculating that Israel is making the underground passageways cave in with liquid explosives or localized earthquakes.
According to a Hamas source who spoke to Israel Hayom, the tunnel collapses are eroding the morale of the men responsible for digging the “tunnels of death,” as they are now known.
“The Zionists are nervous. They’re afraid the tunnels are underneath their homes, and because of their fear they are using very advanced tools to locate and collapse the tunnels,” said the source. “I know of those who have been sentenced to harsh punishments for refusing to take part in the [tunnel-digging] effort. This is a serious offense, and the punishment for it is extremely severe.”
A relative of a member of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, told Israel Hayom that despite secrecy within the brigade, rumors of terrorists who refuse to build the tunnels are increasing. “To be buried alive is a terrible way to die,” said the relative. “Everyone has heard the stories of Qassam Brigade members who preferred harsh punishments over digging the tunnels. The Zionist occupation is finding the tunnels and collapsing them on anyone inside. That’s not being a shahid [martyr]. That’s gambling with your life.”
Israel began seeking effective countermeasures to the tunnels in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when the passageways 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 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: BBC News / YouTube ]