Just weeks after the IDF discovered a fortified tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory running at about 2.5 kilometers, Hamas on Saturday showed off a series of tunnels it intends to use in the next confrontation with Israel.
In a feature aired on Al Jazeera Arabic on the one-year anniversary of Operation Pillar of Defense, a correspondent for the Qatar-based media network accompanied a team of Hamas diggers on a tour of the tunnels.
The diggers spoke of their work underground and their preparations with what they describe as an inevitable next round of hostilities with Israel.
Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, said during an interview with Al Jazeera that the tunnels are intended for kidnapping Israeli soldiers, and indicated that they are a central component of the strategy Hamas has developed for handling the next confrontation.
Earlier this month, five soldiers were wounded, one seriously, during an operation to destroy part of a tunnel east of Khan Younis. The soldiers were hurt when an explosive device planted by Hamas detonated inside the tunnel.
In the ensuing clash, four members of Hamas’s armed wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, were killed, including three of the Islamist group’s tunnel and rocket experts, an Israeli military source said.
The soldiers were preparing to blow up a segment of a major tunnel that was exposed in October, the IDF said. They were within 100 meters of the Kissufim checkpoint between Israel and the Strip, on the Gazan side.
The tunnel — 18 meters underground, 1.7 km long and particularly wide, according to officials – started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Younis, and terminated inside Israel, about three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.
Israel believes the tunnel was likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempts inside Israel.
A similar tunnel was used to capture Gilad Shalit and kill two other soldiers in 2006.