Israeli soldiers this weekend uncovered a mile-and-a-half-long tunnel running between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and ending near an Israeli kindergarten, underscoring concerns that the Iran-backed terror group is seeking to rebuild its fractured credibility with a spectacular terror attack.
The left-leaning Israeli paper Ha’aretz reports that the tunnel is parter of a larger effort:
Regarding the digging of the tunnel from Gaza, whose eastern exit is close to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, it seems like a project that only Hamas, of all the Gaza organizations, is capable of carrying out. The work on the 1,800-meter tunnel – stretching 300 meters into Israel – lasted months and is part of a broader tunnel-building project that is estimated to have cost millions of dollars. In fact, the IDF uncovered what it calls a “shelf attack,” a long-range effort by Hamas intended to be used at the right time for the organization – for an attack or an abduction that would give Hamas the means to pressure Israel.
Hamas has used more primitive tunnels in the past to conduct operations on Israeli soil, most notably the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, which was followed by Israel’s 2006 Operation Summer Rains. Security officials estimate that this tunnel – which IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai described as “one of the most advanced terror tunnels to be uncovered in recent years” – was intended to facilitate an attack on the nearby kindergarten.
Hamas’s regional and domestic positions have been in freefall for almost a year. Israel’s November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense has by all appearances deterred the Palestinian group from launching rockets and missiles and Israel, cutting off a traditional source of credibility.
Meanwhile Cairo’s post-Muslim Brotherhood government has put Hamas on notice that activity in the Sinai Peninsula will not be tolerated. Analysts fear that, having been stymied in the Sinai and unable to bear the costs of another rocket war, Hamas will shift to a strategy of targeted terror attacks.
A spokesman for Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades threatened more attacks:
Abu Ubaida, a nom-de-guerre for the spokesperson of Hamas’s armed wing, wrote on Twitter in Arabic that “The will engraved in the hearts and minds of the men of resistance is much more important than the tunnels dug in the mud. The former will create thousands of the latter.”
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