The UN Mideast envoy said Wednesday that threats by Hamas to continue building tunnels into Israel do “not help” reconstruction efforts in war-battered Gaza Strip.
Nikolay Mladenov was speaking during a visit to Gaza. He toured the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiyah, one of the hardest hit areas in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
His remarks appeared to be a veiled criticism aimed at the Islamic terrorist group, which has struggled to balance its hard-line anti-Israel ideology and the pragmatic needs of ruling the territory.
Hamas officials have pledged to continue building tunnels along the Israeli border, even after recent collapses killed at least 10 Hamas fighters.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said last week the army has employed nearly 100 engineering vehicles on the border to locate and destroy the Hamas passageways into Israel.
Reconstruction in Gaza has been sluggish. Mladenov said only a third of funds pledged by international donors has been received.
During the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, Palestinian gunmen emerged from the tunnels on several occasions to ambush IDF forces, killing several soldiers.
The IDF said it destroyed more than 30 Hamas terror tunnels during the 50-day conflict, about one-third of which extended beneath the Gaza border into Israel.
In late 2014, Egypt began setting up a buffer zone on its border with Gaza, and destroyed hundreds of tunnels it says are used for smuggling weapons and other items. Last September, Egyptian forces carried out digging work that Palestinians say led to the flooding of the last remaining tunnels there.
Last week, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip’s southern border were flooded by Egypt at Israel’s request. His office later said the remarks were misinterpreted.