Palestinian Affairs

Meshaal: Hamas “Smuggling Weapons and Digging Tunnels” Ahead of “Confrontation” With Israel

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal warned on Sunday that the Gaza-based terrorist group is continuing to build up its arsenal and develop its tunnel infrastructure in preparation for another war against Israel.

“The resistance in Gaza is smuggling weapons and digging tunnels in Gaza to prepare for a confrontation with [Israel], which will taste its woes on the edge of the Gaza Strip,” Meshaal said at a press conference in Istanbul.

Meshaal also applauded the United Nations Security Council for passing a resolution on Friday calling Israel’s presence in territory beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including the Old City of Jerusalem, a “flagrant violation of international law.”

In his press conference, Meshaal thanked “everyone who condemned Israeli settlements,” but claimed that the Security Council resolution was “not enough.” He urged the Islamic world and the international community to stand with Hamas in its “righteous struggle” against Israel.

A spokesman for Hamas, which considers the entirety of Israel to be occupied Palestinian land, expressed the group’s appreciation to the Security Council shortly after the resolution’s passage.

The Israel Defense Forces said earlier this month that Hamas is intensifying efforts to surveil Israeli communities by the Gaza border, which the military believes will be targeted for kidnapping attacks in the event of a future conflict.

Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnel construction, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. 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.

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the IDF discovered and destroyed at least 34 tunnels in Gaza. Hamas killed several Israeli soldiers through its use of cross-border tunnels, including five soldiers in Israeli territory near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The IDF explained at the time that Hamas intended to use the tunnels “to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.”

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

[Photo: Trango / Wikimedia ]