The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas announced that seven of its members died when an attack tunnel they were working on near the Gaza Strip’s eastern border collapsed due to flooding, Reuters reported Thursday.
“The Mujahedin martyrs were repairing an old tunnel, from which a number of operations were executed in the  war,” said Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, in a statement. “The fathers of these martyrs should be proud. The whole world will witness the deeds of their tunnels against the [Israeli] occupier should they dare [to attack] our people and our land,” it added.
Four of the 11 terrorists inside the tunnel were reported to have escaped shortly after it caved in. Reuters added that mosques across Gaza were mourning the dead terrorists, calling them “Martyrs of the Preparation.”
There have been several other tunnel collapses in recent weeks, according to Agence France-Presse. A 30-year-old man was killed when a tunnel gave way last Saturday, and 14 Palestinians were rescued after a partial tunnel collapse near the Egyptian border in December.
“The next conflict in the north or south of Israel is just a matter of time,” said Yair Lapid, who chairs the Israeli opposition party Yesh Atid, earlier this week. “As we sit here, there are around 1,000 people digging terror tunnels in Gaza, some of them under the border and into Israel.”
“The provocations, the breaches of international law, the preparations – are already happening every day by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, both with Iranian backing,” he added. “When the next round of fighting breaks out, the analysis and the reporting shouldn’t start with the first Israeli strike, but with what’s happening on the ground right now.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon denounced the U.N. Security Council’s silence on Hamas’ recent activities in a speech earlier this week. Danon specifically cited Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its attack tunnels as one of the ways the Iran-backed terrorist group is preparing for its next war against Israel.
Hamas does not hide its intention to prepare for the next round of conflict, and continues to build up its terror infrastructure- above ground and below. Its officials boast of rocket factories operating day and night. They are upgrading their arsenal with longer range missiles. Hamas is also rebuilding its network of terror tunnels. These tunnels are an underground expressway of terror, leading straight into the heart of Israeli towns and cities. Israeli security forces only recently uncovered Hamas terror cells, which were planning to commit a wave of shootings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings.
Even as Hamas plans attacks against Israeli citizens, and despite the constant threat of rocket attacks, Israel is taking steps to improve the well-being of the people in Gaza. In the past year alone, we have invested millions of dollars to triple the capacity of the Gaza crossing, allowing a thousand trucks filled with building material and goods to enter the Gaza strip every day. However, as we all know, Hamas shamefully seizes supplies intended to help the people of Gaza, in order to rebuild its terror infrastructure. Let’s all of us face reality. The greatest opponent of the well-being of the people of Gaza is Hamas.
Several families in the southern Israeli village of Pri Gan, located nearly three miles from the Gaza border, told authorities they recently heard sounds of digging and felt their floors shaking, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.
Hamas has in the past dug tunnels near Israeli residential areas and used them to launch attacks, as was the case during Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas, also known as Operation Protective Edge. During one notable assault, terrorists emerged from a tunnel near two kibbutzim and the city of Sderot. The group was detected and killed before they could reach nearby residents.
Amos Harel, the military correspondent for Ha’aretz, reported earlier this month that Hamas currently has nearly the same number of attack tunnels it did prior to the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
Only three months after the conclusion of the 50-day conflict, Egyptian authorities warned that Hamas was already spending the equivalent of $140 million annually to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure. In December 2014, sources inside Gaza told Ynet that “Hamas has been commandeering building materials from Israel transferred into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction for the purpose of rebuilding its offensive ‘terror tunnels’.” Similar reports surfaced again in April, when Hamas was also said to be rearming with Iranian support.
This past August, a little more than a year after the 2014 war, Hamas released a propaganda video showing its rebuilt terror tunnels and restocked arsenal with advanced weapons. The video was released while the reconstruction of residential buildings in Gaza was reported to be lagging.
Egypt has been attempting to combat Hamas tunnels out of concern that the terror group is using them to help ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, which has been attacking Egyptian troops. Recent reports indicate that Hamas is both funding and coordinating operations with ISIS’s Sinai branch.
Cairo declared last year that it would create a buffer zone in the Sinai along its border with Gaza. It has also been flooding Hamas’ tunnels, often leading to their collapse. The Egyptian military announced the destruction of 20 newly-discovered tunnels last month.
Having had many of their tunnels destroyed by Egypt, Hamas had started smuggling the materials for rebuilding its terror infrastructure through Israel, Avi Issacharoff, the Middle East analyst for The Times of Israel reported in July.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]