Palestinian Affairs

Two Hamas Members Die in Tunnel Collapse 500 Yards from Israeli Border

Two members of the terrorist group Hamas were killed after the tunnel they were in collapsed about 500 yards from the Israeli border, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry identified the two men as Ismail Shmali and Rami al-Areir, who were both in their 20s. A third man was reported injured. Israeli news organizations identified the two as Hamas members.

The incident came shortly after four Gazans were reportedly killed after Egyptian authorities flooded a Gazan smuggling tunnel into Egypt.

At least 20 Gazans, most of them members of Hamas, have been killed in tunnel collapses in recent months, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hamas spends an estimated $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnels into Israel that can be used in future terrorist attacks. An Israeli official estimated in July that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters earlier this year that the tunnels were a sign that Hamas is preparing for another war against Israel. “They definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels,” he said.

Israel began constructing a $530 million underground barrier along its border with Gaza in September to prevent more Hamas tunnels from breaching Israeli territory. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot described the barrier as “the largest project” ever undertaken in Israel’s military history.

In Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels, which was published in the April 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Dan Feferman observed that Gaza’s civilians ultimately pay the price for Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its tunnels.

There is a tragic side to Hamas’ tunnel strategy. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. This is not Israel’s fault, as building supplies flow regularly into Gaza. But according to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels. Estimates are that one tunnel can cost a million dollars to build and uses around 50,000 tons of concrete. Close to a million tons of concrete were poured into the terror tunnels before 2014.

The tunnels, in this sense, are a zero-sum game. If the same materials were put into reconstruction, the Gazan people would be better off and, lacking this crucial asymmetric warfare capability, Hamas would be less tempted to attack Israel. On the other hand, with the same limited materials going to terror tunnels, the people of Gaza continue to live in ruins while Hamas rebuilds its war machine.

While Hamas appears to be deterred in the short term, it continues to believe that the tunnels are its only strategic weapon. While it may not be interested in another war, the tunnels continue to be dug for a reason. Once used, however, they lose their effectiveness, as the IDF knows their locations and can thus destroy them. Hamas is well aware of this dilemma. The tunnels essentially leave Israel and Hamas in an arms race—with Israel racing to develop a technological solution before Hamas decides to launch another round of fighting.

[Photo: BBC News / YouTube ]