A member of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades was killed on Monday when a tunnel he was digging caved in, The Times of Israel reported.
Ahmad Asa’ad Shahada, 22, “met his lord as a martyr, God willing, after a tunnel of the resistance collapsed,” according to an announcement on the brigades’ website.
Gaza’s health minister Ashraf al-Qidra confirmed Shahada’s death — the first reported in 2017 — on Twitter.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, said last month that it lost 22 of its members in tunnel collapses in 2016. Earlier this month, a Hamas engineer was killed when a rocket he was testing exploded.
A senior IDF official recently told Israel’s Channel 2 that Hamas had rebuilt its tunnel infrastructure and rocket arsenal to the levels it maintained before its 2014 war against Israel.
Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out last year that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes, writing that “the last thing Hamas cares about is the welfare of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas spends some $40 million of its $100 million military budget on 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 last May 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.
The IDF discovered and destroyed at least 34 tunnels during Operation Protective Edge. 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.
This week, Hamas elected Yehya Sinwar — an influential hardliner convicted by Israel of multiple murders — to be its new Gaza-based chief.
[Photo: BBC News / YouTube ]