Gaza smuggling tunnel 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Facing a possible new conflict against Hamas, concern is growing within the IDF regarding increased efforts by Palestinian terrorist groups to dig tunnels under the border that could be used to infiltrate into Israel and perpetrate attacks.
According to IDF sources, the number of tunnels has grown in recent years. Hamas is under orders to dig “terror tunnels” along the border.
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Hamas has split into five different regional brigades – north, Gaza City, central Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.
The exact number of tunnels is unknown to the IDF.
Tunnels have been used in the past by Hamas and other terrorist groups to infiltrate into Israel. The terrorists who abducted Gilad Schalit from his military post near Kerem Shalom, in June 2006, crossed into Israel through an underground tunnel.
Palestinian terror groups in Gaza have made some major improvements to their military capabilities since Operation Cast Lead over two years ago, it is understood. One of these improvements has been in missile capability, with the addition of new long-range rockets, like the Iranian-made Fajr-5 that has reportedly been smuggled into Gaza and can reach Tel Aviv.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also believed to have obtained new guided anti-tank missiles like the Kornet, Fagot and Sagger, one of which was fired at an IDF patrol on Friday.
The IDF believes that Hamas is also working to improve its communication capabilities.
“One of Hamas’s main problems during Cast Lead was that it was not able to control its forces and distribute orders,” a senior IDF officer said. “IDF troops found loads of weaponry throughout Gaza but the fighters had disappeared in many cases.”
In comparison, during the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah succeeded in firing over 100 Katyusha rockets into Israel until the very last day of the 2006 war despite constant IDF bombings and ongoing ground operations throughout southern Lebanon.
According to US diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks, Iran has
financed a new fiber optics communication network in Lebanon that
operates independently of the national Lebanese communications network.
In December 2009, a year after Operation Cast Lead, the Fatah-run
PalVoice news service revealed that Hamas was attempting to create its
own communications network in an effort to avoid eavesdropping and
attain greater autonomy.
According to that report, Hamas was using Iran-sourced equipment
smuggled into Gaza through tunnels to build the new network, which was
being modeled on the independent telephone network Hezbollah set up in
South Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut after the 2006 war.