Despite the Israeli military’s efforts to destroy all tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, Hamas still has some that it can use to penetrate Israel, Hamas commander Abu Laith told The Times of London, warning that Israel will have “no security” as long as Gaza has none.
And at a rally in Gaza City on Thursday, a Hamas spokesman said Hamas still has tunnels that stretch “inside the Zionist entity.” Mushir al-Masri said it would use these tunnels when resuming attacks on Israel on Friday morning if its demands were not met.
The claims follow an Al-Jazeera report on Wednesday, which showed its correspondent in what it said was an operational attack tunnel on the Israel-Gaza border.
Abu Laith, a 43-year-old Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighter who ventured out of his home during the 72-hour ceasefire with Israel, told the UK paper that the terrorist organization still has “enough rockets, more than the enemy can imagine,” with which to target Israel.
Though he admitted some of the “terror tunnels” Hamas dug to attack Israel have “partially collapsed,” he said the tunnel network as a whole has not been destroyed.
He indicated that his Hamas comrades’ thirst for battle has not been quenched, either. “They would rather be killed on the battlefield than be a martyr on the surface,” he said.
“We prepared for a long battle. We can target cities we have not even hit in this war. We can penetrate the Israeli border again,” he said. “We only fought with 10 per cent of our forces, the rest are on standby.”
Abu Laith, a seasoned fighter, also said this latest war with Israel was the most brutal he has seen since joining Hamas in the 1990s, during the first intifada.
“It was a completely different conflict to the ones in the past,” he said. “In 2008, the airstrike and air surveillance took us by surprise. That war cost us a lot, so we made strategic plans to move the battle from the surface to underground.”
He was adamant that Hamas has, for the most part, not re-armed by receiving weapons from abroad.
“We’ve been accused of foreign funding but most of our weapons are made by Palestinians locally, despite being under siege,” Abu Laith said, holding up a homemade sniper round and noting that Hamas even has female engineers within its ranks. “We smuggle in materials via the tunnels and the sea.”
On Wednesday night, Al-Jazeera reported from a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, which correspondent Tamer Mishal said extends into Israeli territory.
There was no independent confirmation of his claims.
“The high-quality tunnels of the resistance continue to be the secret behind its successful surprise attacks. This is one of the tunnels on the Gaza-Israel border. The Al-Qassam Brigades say that the tunnels remain operational, and that their hidden capabilities are even greater than seen so far,” he said, according to a translation by MEMRI.
“Above and below ground, the Palestinian resistance has prepared for the Israeli aggression. It demonstrated an ability to surprise the enemy and cause it pain.
“As the negotiations continue, the resistance says that it is prepared for all options and for all necessary sacrifices, in order to accomplish its demands and the demands of its people.”
A Hamas member on the scene said: “In light of the circumstances, we in the Al-Qassam Brigades have not received orders from our commanders to leave the battlefield. We are on high alert, and we will not leave this place until the oppressive enemy succumbs to the terms of the resistance, whether it likes it or not.”