Hamas turns Gaza terror tunnels into summer tourist attraction
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Hamas turns Gaza terror tunnels into summer tourist attraction

Organized tours take place during weapons exhibition marking second anniversary of 2014 war with Israel

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

The Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group appears to branching into the field of local tourism, turning underground tunnels constructed to carry out cross-border attacks on Israeli communities into the latest summer attraction for Gazan youth.

Video footage posted to Facebook by Afaq, a pro-Hamas media outlet in Gaza, shows lines of children walking through the tunnels decorated with posters of Hamas operatives apparently killed by Israel. In one shot, a guide wearing a florescent yellow jacket can be seen directing the children.

According to the post, the tunnel tours are taking place in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, and form part of a Hamas exhibition displaying weapons and methods used in the “resistance” against Israel.

“Afaq media enters a tunnel created by the Qassam Brigades during a weapons exhibition in Shejaiya on the anniversary [of the war],” reads the text introducing the video, referring to Hamas’s armed wing. The exhibition was said to be “open to any citizen or media for videos and publishing.”

An image taken from a video on Hamas's Facebook page on July 20, 2016 shows Palestinian children inside a tunnel dug by the terror group in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture from Facebook)
An image taken from a video on Hamas’s Facebook page on July 20, 2016 shows Palestinian children inside a tunnel dug by the terror group in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture from Facebook)

Palestinian users of social media posted photos of the weapons display as well as images showing children attending Hamas summer camps on a hike through one of the tunnels.

The Gaza conflict, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8, 2014 and lasted for 50 days. During the operation Israel uncovered and destroyed 36 tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel.

Those tunnels were used during the war on a number of occasions to ambush IDF soldiers, to devastating effect.

During the conflict, 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed, while Hamas said approximately 2,000 Gazans died, some 50 percent of them civilians. The exact figures remain mired in controversy nearly two years later, however, with Palestinians putting the civilian casualty rate closer to 70% and Israelis calculating it to be 36%.

Israel previously launched operations in Gaza in December 2008 and November 2012 in an effort to curb attacks on its population from inside the coastal enclave it evacuated in 2005.

Hamas has bragged since the 2014 war that it is rebuilding a network of attack tunnels under the Israeli border — two of which were exposed by Israel this spring — and restocking its arsenals while testing more potent rockets for future use against Israel.

Since April, the IDF has discovered two tunnels leading into Israeli territory, and the Shin Bet says it has captured a number of Gazans who have given them extensive information on the tunnel system.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, and head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, center, inspect a newly discovered 'terror tunnel,' believed to have been dug by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, and head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, center, inspect a newly discovered ‘terror tunnel,’ believed to have been dug by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The first tunnel found ran at a depth of approximately 100 feet (30-40 meters) below ground, extending dozens of meters inside Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.

Israel has labored for over a decade to find a technological or physical answer to Hamas tunnels under the border.

Following the conflict, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) into developing a detection system to locate such tunnels.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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