Southerners see Hamas digging tunnels near border
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Southerners see Hamas digging tunnels near border

Residents of Kibbutz Netiv Ha’Asara film Gaza gunmen at excavation sites only yards from the fence with Israel

A Palestinian man looks at what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in the area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
A Palestinian man looks at what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in the area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Residents of a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip said Friday that Hamas is excavating new tunnels beneath the border with Israel.

Netiv Ha’Asara, which is under a kilometer (half mile) from the Gaza Strip, is home to about 700 Israelis. Members of the collective said that Hamas workers were digging new attack tunnels before the eyes of IDF soldiers stationed on the border and that the military was doing nothing to stop them.

A video published Friday by the Ynet news site, filmed by a resident of the kibbutz from inside Israel, appeared to show masked Hamas gunmen stationed atop massive piles of excavated sand, while others dug below.

Hamas training exercises and rocket launches out to sea are also regular occurrences in the northern Gaza Strip, opposite Netiv Ha’Asara.

“Last week we heard explosions every night and we have no doubt it’s Hamas training [exercises],” an unnamed resident of the kibbutz told Ynet. “It’s a very concerning development, which wasn’t happening before [2014’s] Operation Protective Edge. Before the operation, the area there was completely clean, we didn’t see activity whatsoever. Now they’re building fortifications and training facilities under our noses.”

During last summer’s conflict in the Gaza Strip, the IDF destroyed dozens of tunnels burrowed beneath the border which Palestinian terror groups used to launch attacks at Israeli towns and military installations. Recent reports have indicated that Gaza groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have begun rebuilding tunnels and rearming.

In January, six months after the summer war with Hamas, the IDF began pulling troops out of communities near the Gaza Strip, including Netiv Ha’Asara, leaving local residents to organize their own guard duty and security responsibilities. Like other communities near the Palestinian enclave, Netiv Ha’Asara was targeted in the summer conflict by Hamas mortar fire and an attempted amphibious assault.

The IDF said in response to the reports that it was closely monitoring everything taking place in the Gaza Strip, and that soldiers stationed along the border provide security for residents of the south.

“Even now broad joint security activity continues in the area and there’s close communication between IDF officials and residents of the Gaza periphery,” the IDF said.

Israeli soldiers on patrol in Netiv Ha'asara on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, on July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers on patrol in Netiv Ha’asara on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, on July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

 

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