Officials order further investigation as residents of town near West Bank hear digging

Man from Bat Hefer, located opposite West Bank city of Tulkarem, records noises he heard under home; local council plans 2 more checks after 3 previous ones found nothing

A view of the community of Bat Hefer. (CC BY-SA GevBen/Wikipedia)
A view of the community of Bat Hefer. (CC BY-SA GevBen/Wikipedia)

The local council of Bat Hefer said Monday it had ordered that further inspections be carried out after residents of the town, situated hundreds of meters from the West Bank city of Tulkarem, reported hearing digging sounds under their homes.

One resident recorded the noises and played them for the Kan public broadcaster during an interview in which he said residents have been complaining of the suspected digging for years.

Three sets of tests searching for possible tunnels from the West Bank have so far found nothing, but a further two checks will be carried out in the coming days, the Emek Hefer Regional Council said.

There is a heightened concern over potential terror attacks, as Israel battles against Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the terror group’s devastating October 7 terror attack that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. IDF troops operating in Gaza have uncovered parts of Hamas’s vast network of tunnels that are believed to extend for hundreds of kilometers under the coastal Palestinian enclave.

The Emek Hefer Regional Council told the Ynet outlet that it is carrying out the tests to allay fears of potential attack tunnels dug by terrorists from the West Bank.

“We take the reports very seriously, and are working overtime to check the issue in a comprehensive and professional manner, using various methods. So far, three checks have been carried out and two more checks will be carried out in the coming days. So far, there have been no findings to indicate digging,” the council said.

FILE – An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour of a tunnel used by Palestinian terrorists for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Jack Guez, Pool, File)

According to Ynet, the first search for tunnels was carried out by a specialist company on behalf of the council, the second by the IDF’s Home Front Command, and the third by the Defense Ministry.

The Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups have, in the past dug, attack tunnels into Israel across the Gaza and Lebanon borders, respectively.

Bat Hefer resident Matan Buchner told Kan there are “endless digging noises” during the night.

“We have complained for years that residents hear knocking under their homes in the night,” he said.

Buchner played a recording he had made of the noises at 4 a.m. for the station. He said he could only hear the noise coming from inside his own home, beneath the lounge room.

In the audio, a clear grinding sound could be heard.

Buchner argued there was no other apparent explanation for the noises, having ruled out any construction in the area or from neighbors’ activities.

He also said that the homes of residents who have reported the noises are located in a straight line.

This photo, released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit on November 14, 2023, shows a tunnel shaft uncovered by troops operating in the Gaza Strip. (IDF Spokesperson)

Buchner said the local council had contacted the IDF and an engineering officer had spoken with him about the matter.

The IDF in a response to Kan said it “takes a serious view and it attentive to the residents’ reports and security forces conducted sweeps in the area in cooperation with the local council.”

It said the situation was being monitored.

Another Bat Hefer resident, Gad Ohayon, told Channel 12: “The residents who complained of digging noises near their homes have been saying it for around 18 months.”

Ohayon said the residents told senior officials of their concerns, and that their fears had not been allayed.

He noted that in addition to the reported digging sounds, there have been several incidents of gunfire from the West Bank toward the town, with cars and buildings hit.

“We have one of the strongest armies in the world, and it must deal with this issue,” Ohayon said.

MK Eli Dallal leads a joint meeting of the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Special Committee for Combatting Drug and Alcohol Abuse at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, on April 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Eli Dallal submitted a query to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant about the residents’ concerns

Dallal asked Gallant if he was aware of the matter and what the security establishment intended to do about it.

There is a security barrier separating Bat Hefer from Tulkarem, but the local council said that, in light of the complaints of digging noises, additional security measures had been taken.

As far back as 2014, residents of northern towns raised the alarm regarding the possibility of Hezbollah tunneling below the border to carry out attacks, after an extensive series of underground passages dug by the Hamas terror group were discovered under the Gaza border in the south. Some complained that they could hear digging noises.

In December 2018, the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield, an effort to locate and destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah into northern Israel from southern Lebanon. In total, the military said it found six such passages and rendered them inoperable — either using explosives or filling them with concrete.

Israeli troops search for attack tunnels dug into Israel from southern Lebanon that the Israeli military believes Hezbollah planned to use in future wars, in January 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

On October 7, Hamas led 3,000 terrorists to burst through the border from Gaza into southern Israel where they massacred those they found, as well as abducting at least 240 who were taken captive to Gaza. Although Hamas is not known to have used cross-border tunnels in the attack, the Israeli military operating in Gaza has found a vast tunnel network within the Strip, some of which are believed to have been used by Hamas to conceal or move its forces in preparation for the assault.

Israel responded to the attack with an unprecedented military campaign aimed at removing Hamas from power, and freeing the hostages.

Most Popular
read more: