Hamas still tunneling, Israel charges, despite IDF detection efforts
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Hamas still tunneling, Israel charges, despite IDF detection efforts

Underage operative of terror group interrogated by Shin Bet reveals 'extensive information' about attack plans, agency says

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border. (Ynet screenshot)
File: Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border. (Ynet screenshot)

A teen Hamas operative revealed “extensive information” about the terror organization’s tunnels and plans for infiltrating Israel in order to carry out attacks, after he was arrested by security forces last month, the Shin Bet said Tuesday.

As of last month — before Israel announced it had discovered a tunnel in Israeli territory — the terror group was continuing to dig into Israel to carry out attacks despite Israeli efforts to detect and destroy the subterranean passageways, the Shin Bet security service said Tuesday, citing information gleaned from a captured Gazan teen involved in the tunneling project.

In his interrogation, the minor revealed “extensive information on Hamas activities to dig tunnels that are to be used for Hamas fighters to infiltrate Israeli areas,” the Shin Bet said.

The security service stressed that the minor is just one of a “succession of [Hamas] operatives” who have provided information to Israel about the terror group’s “intensive tunneling activities.”

According to the operative, who was unnamed due to his young age, Hamas is well aware of Israel’s attempts at locating the group’s tunnels, but continues to construct them undeterred, the Shin Bet said.

The teen was arrested prior to the discovery of the two attack tunnels in the past month. Therefore his testimony does not address what impact the still-secret but widely discussed tunnel detection technology has had on Hamas’s burrowing plans.

File: Palestinian men work at the entrance of a tunnel used for smuggling supplies between Egypt and the Gaza Strip after being flooded with seawater by the Egyptian army, in Rafah in southern Gaza on October 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
File: Palestinian men work at the entrance of a tunnel used for smuggling supplies between Egypt and the Gaza Strip after being flooded with seawater by the Egyptian army, in Rafah in southern Gaza on October 1, 2015. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

During his interrogations, the teenage Hamas member gave interrogators details of the locations, building strategies and what materials are used in their construction, the security service said.

“For example, in an effort to camouflage their activities, the diggers are adopting a variety of methods like forbidding them from leaving the tunnels in work clothes, requiring them to shower and change clothes within the tunnel, and more,” the Shin Bet said.

Hamas also planted explosives both along the tunnels and in the areas surrounding them, in order to prevent Israeli forces from entering them and killing those who do, the teenager told interrogators.

In addition, the Hamas detainee revealed some of the terror group’s battle plans for future conflicts. For instance, most of the group’s training exercises were “offensive,” as opposed to defensive, dealing with “infiltration, entering buildings, detonating explosives, etc.,” the security service said.

According to the Shin Bet, this appears to be “a part of their battle plan to have the next fighting take place within Israeli territory.”

Palestinian members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist movement, mourn during the funeral of fellow militant Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. Zahar was killed in a tunnel collapse. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terrorist movement, mourn during the funeral of fellow militant Ahmed al-Zahar in the village of Al-Moghraga near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on February 3, 2016. Zahar was killed in a tunnel collapse. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

Interrogators also extracted information “about the routes of the tunnels that will be used in emergency situations by Nachba operatives, the elite unit of Hamas, and also information about the numerous tunnel shafts in the Strip,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The Palestinian teen came from the Jabaliya refugee camp and belonged to Hamas’s Northern Gaza Brigade, the Shin Bet said.

The unnamed teen admitted to interrogators that he had joined the terror organization just before the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

During the 50-day conflict, the teen took part in the fighting, “including in ambushes, as a lookout against IDF forces, doing reconnaissance and digging tunnels into Israel,” the Shin Bet said.

In addition to his tunnel-digging role and combat training, the underage Hamas member kept explosives in his home for the terrorist organization, the Shin Bet said.

For his actions in the organization, the Gazan teen was indicted Tuesday in a Beersheba court.

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