Islamic Jihad gives CNN a tour of Gaza tunnel, shows off rocket launcher

Islamic Jihad gives CNN a tour of Gaza tunnel, shows off rocket launcher

Defending rocket attacks on Israel, guide claims terror group never intends to target children, but ‘mistakes are made’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A US reporter was granted access to a Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel in the Gaza Strip, as well as to training exercises during which members of the terror group showed off a rocket launcher they claimed had recently been used to fire at Israel.

In a video clip published Sunday, CNN’s Ian Lee spoke with the Islamic Jihad about why it indiscriminately fires rockets at Israel and what it hopes to achieve with the attacks. Lee was blindfolded as he was brought to each location on his tour, apparently to prevent him from identifying the location.

The tour, during which Lee walked with armed fighters through a tunnel “somewhere in the Gaza Strip,” came two weeks after Islamic Jihad was involved in the heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and the Gaza Strip since the 2014 50-day war known as Operation Protective Edge.

Lee described the concrete tunnel, which had the straight walls and low arched ceiling commonly seen in such passages dug by the Palestinians, as hot and humid, saying “it feels claustrophobic.”

An Islamic Jihad fighter, identified only as Abu Abdallah, explained in Arabic that the tunnels are used for moving fighters so that they can “play their role and defend the Palestinian people.”

The Islamic Jihad members, armed with rifles were seen crouching in the tunnel and receiving a “pep talk” from their commander.

The reporter said the tunnels are also used for smuggling weapons [from Egypt] and carrying out cross-border attacks in Israel.

Above ground, at another location, Abdallah showed Lee a four-barrel rocket launcher he claimed was used in the recent attacks against Israel.

Flames from rockets fired by Palestinians are seen over Gaza Strip heading toward Israel, in the early morning of May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

“The world hears the conflict only through Netanyahu’s voice,” Abdallah said according to an English translation of his comments provided by CNN. “We are trying to make it hear us through the sound of these simple missiles.”

Three weeks ago, Islamic Jihad fired dozens of mortar shells and rockets at Israel, one of which landed next to a kindergarten, apparently in response to the Israeli army’s killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange that came amid violent border clashes between Palestinian protesters and the IDF.

Asked by Lee why Islamic Jihad fires rockets at Israel’s civilian population, Abdallah responded that “the world needs to know that the resistance never plans to target children,” but that mistakes are made.

“Israel is proud of its support from the United States and we are proud of Iran’s support of the Palestinian resistance, on the moral and logistical level,” he continued. “There is nothing wrong with it and that is not a secret.”

Tensions with the restive Gaza Strip reached a fever pitch last month, with a massive flare-up between terrorist organizations in the coastal enclave and Israel. Hamas, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a number of smaller groups launched approximately 200 mortar shells and rockets at southern Israel over the course of 22 hours. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck over 65 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including a Hamas attack tunnel.

Israel is in the process of constructing a massive barrier that reaches deep underground along the border to block tunnels. Over the past year, the IDF has destroyed several tunnels it uncovered, including some that reached into Israeli territory.

Time of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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