In its end of year report, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas claimed that it killed 17 Israelis and wounded 437 more during 2016.
The first months of 2016 were marked by a wave Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, often by “lone wolf” attackers, which began in September 2015. According to Israel’s Magen David Adom, 42 people were killed and 602 injured in over 420 attacks since the onset of the violence.
Hamas also reported this week that it lost 21 men while digging tunnels under the Gaza Strip in 2016.
The leader of the Islamist group, Khaled Meshaal, said in Istanbul last week that Hamas “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 also praised the anti-Israel United Nations Security Council resolution passed on December 23, which called Israel’s presence in territory beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including the Old City of Jerusalem, a “flagrant violation of international law.” He thanked “everyone who condemned Israeli settlements,” but said that the resolution alone was “not enough.”
The Israel Defense Forces said last 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 in May of last 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: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90 ]