Hamas executed dozens of diggers responsible for its extensive tunnel system in past weeks, fearing the workers would reveal the site locations to Israel, a report on the Mako website’s army blog said.
There was no independent confirmation of the report (link here in Hebrew).
The tunnelers, many of whom constructed the tunnels over the course of months, would dig for 8-12 hours a day, and received a monthly wage of $150-$300, according to the blog.
Sources in Gaza told the website that Hamas took a series of precautions to prevent information from reaching Israel. The terror organization would reportedly blindfold the excavators en route to the sites and back, to prevent them from recognizing the locations. The tunnels were strictly supervised by Hamas members, and civilians were kept far from the sites.
M., a former tunnel digger and Israeli collaborator, told the website that Hamas would strip search the workers to ensure they had no recording devices or cameras hidden on them.
“The people we met had their faces covered; no one knew them by their real names, it was all codes and first names. They didn’t want to take the risk that some of the diggers were collaborating with Israel,” he said.
After the tunnels were completed, dozens were reportedly executed to prevent intelligence leaks to Israel.
“Anyone they suspected might transfer information to Israel on the tunnels was killed by the military wing,” a different source said. “They were very cruel.”
In 2012, a Journal of Palestine Studies article claimed 160 Palestinian children were killed while working on Hamas’s tunnel system.
The digging of tunnels began four years ago and has demanded 40 percent of Hamas’s budget, The Times of Israel has learned.
Tunnel diggers have been using electric or pneumatic jackhammers, advancing 4-5 meters a day. The tunnels found were reportedly mostly dug 18-25 meters (60-82 feet) underground, though one was discovered at a depth of 35 meters (115 feet). “That’s like a 10-story building underground,” one expert said.
Digging requires engineering and geological expertise, with tunnels usually dug through sandy soil, their roof supported by a more durable level of clay. As they are dug, the tunnels are reinforced by concrete panels, manufactured locally in workshops adjacent to each tunnel. These workshops have also been targeted by the IDF throughout its military operation.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.