Hamas has dug ‘several tunnels’ into Israel, in new Iran-funded war drive
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Hamas has dug ‘several tunnels’ into Israel, in new Iran-funded war drive

TV report says Israel wary of tackling new threat for fear of triggering war; Hamas fighter held by Israel spilling info on latest plans

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

In footage captured by al-Mayadeen, Hamas Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters are seen preparing rockets to launch against Israel in a tunnel underneath the Gaza Strip, August 2014. (screen capture, YouTube)
In footage captured by al-Mayadeen, Hamas Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters are seen preparing rockets to launch against Israel in a tunnel underneath the Gaza Strip, August 2014. (screen capture, YouTube)

A year after a bitter 50-day war, Hamas has again dug numerous attack tunnels from Gaza into Israeli sovereign territory, and is gearing up with major Iranian assistance for another conflict, a TV report said Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed that “not a small number” of terror tunnels have been dug by Hamas under the border into Israel, including one in the area of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.

According to the report, Israel has “information” on the tunnels, and has troops “working around the clock” to grapple with the threat. However, Israel prefers to wait rather than send troops into the Hamas-held Gaza Strip to tackle the tunnel network there, because it knows that if it does so, it will trigger a new war.

Iran’s assistance in the new Hamas war effort includes cash, military training for Hamas fighters, weaponry, and electronics equipment including for use against Israeli drones, the report said.

Hamas has also been training fighters in the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and is training recruits to fly paragliders across the border.

The report elaborated on material released earlier in the day by Israel’s Shin Bet security service. The agency on Tuesday morning published details of information on Hamas’s preparations for war that it said it had obtained from a Hamas fighter and tunnel digger who was arrested last month at the border. Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer has provided a wealth of information on the terror group’s tunnel-digging in the Gaza Strip, its strategy for a future conflict with Israel, and its methods for obtaining cash from Iran, the Shin Bet said.

A photo released by the IDF shows a Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the Northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
A photo released by the IDF shows a Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the Northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Shaer, 21, a resident of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, was arrested in early July as he tried to cross at the Erez border crossing from Gaza into Israel.

Under questioning by security officials, he disclosed a plethora of details about Hamas activities in Rafah, and in particular Hamas’s emergency procedures, as well as its intention to use tunnels dug under the border to attack Israel in a future fight.

Shaer told investigators that in recent months he had worked on some of the tunnels and was shown a passage dug from Rafah that led in the direction of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Israel, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Hamas member Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer, who was arrested by Israeli security forces in July 2015. (Shin Bet)
Hamas member Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer, who was arrested by Israeli security forces in July 2015. (Shin Bet)

The Hamas member provided data on tunnels in the Rafah area, including digging locations, access shafts, diggers and the routes of the tunnels. He also revealed that a new road recently laid down by Hamas near the border fence was installed for the purpose of carrying out surprise attacks using vehicles that would speed over the border into Israel.

According to the Shin Bet, Shaer was personally involved in various types of warfare training, including combat training, command methods, use of advanced weapons and sabotage.

During last summer’s war in Gaza, when the Israeli army battled against militias led by Hamas, Shaer served in the group’s logistics support division and helped in the provision of military equipment and explosives to fighters. He also admitted to taking part in the military action by placing anti-tank charges and helping with observation posts.

Shaer said he was privy to many details about Hamas activities and the organization’s senior figures in recent years. He offered investigators intel on Hamas’s links to Iran and the latter’s military support for the Gaza group.

Iranian support came in the form of cash, advanced weapons and sophisticated electronic equipment meant to interfere with control signals for Israeli drones over the coastal enclave. The Shin Bet said Shaer also briefed its agents on Iranian training for Hamas fighters in the use of paragliders capable of penetrating Israeli airspace.

The fighter provided details about Hamas’s elite units, the organization’s anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities, the location of its observation posts and the three-kilometer range of its photographic capabilities into Israel.

In July, Hamas published a short video clip that it claimed showed the former chief of staff of the IDF, Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz, within rifle range near the border fence with the Gaza Strip during the 2014 fighting in the coastal enclave.

Shaer said Hamas has altered its combat strategy in the wake of the war, during which IDF troops penetrated deep into the Strip with the goal of destroying a network of cross-border tunnels that were used by Hamas to launch attacks inside Israel.

Shaer told investigators that material for Hamas’s war infrastructure is now being brought into Gaza under the guise of reconstruction programs aimed at repairing the damage caused during the fighting, when thousands of buildings were destroyed.

He also confirmed that fighters kept explosives and other materiel in their homes because Hamas commanders feared the group’s weapons stores would be bombed by Israel. Shaer noted that he had stored several explosive charges of 50 kilograms each in his own home.

On July 31, an indictment was filed against Shaer in the Beersheba District Court for being a member of, and engaging in activities, with a banned organization, attempted murder, contact with an enemy agent, forbidden military training, and various firearms charges.

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