Hamas leader: Tunnels are our only way to free prisoners

Implying responsibility, Moussa Abu Marzouk says exposed Gaza passageway may have been costly, but was worth the effort

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq (YouTube image grab)
Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq (YouTube image grab)

A Hamas political official on Monday indirectly acknowledged his organization’s responsibility for digging a sophisticated tunnel under Gaza’s border with Israel, claiming it was intended to enable the transfer of a kidnapped Israeli into Gaza to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

“The tunnel which was revealed was extremely costly in terms of money, effort and blood. All of this is meaningless when it comes to freeing our heroic prisoners,” wrote Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, on his personal Facebook page.

“It would not have been possible to free hundreds of our prisoners without the Shalit tunnel,” the Cairo-based Hamas leader continued, referring to the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006. Shalit was forced out of his tank near the Gaza border in a Hamas raid in which two other Israeli soldiers were killed. He was smuggled under the fence through a tunnel dug in advance. He was released in a deal between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt in October 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners.

After the IDF exposed the new tunnel on Sunday, Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Shlomo Turgeman warned that had Hamas used the tunnel to carry out a terrorist attack against Israel, the Israeli response would “leave Gaza looking very different.” Abu Marzouk’s statement, coupled with the fact that no explosives were found in the tunnel, might indicate that the tunnel was dug for the purpose of abduction.

The tunnel is a “gross violation of the ceasefire, [and is] against Israel and against the Palestinians,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Edelstein, the Gaza Division commander. The passageway was “definitely the work of Hamas,” Edelstein added. “Hamas is clearly in difficulty, and chooses the path of terrorism.

On Sunday, Hamas military spokesman Abu-Ubaida tweeted that “the will engraved in the hearts and minds of the men of resistance is much more important than the tunnels dug in the mud. The former will create thousands of the latter.”

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