Tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel 370.
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
This week’s revelation of a massive Hamas attack tunnel stretching from southern
Gaza to Israel’s Eshkol region is a reminder that the terrorism industry in Gaza
is pushing ahead at full throttle, in anticipation of the day that the
cease-fire between Hamas and Israel will come to an end.
and engineering of the latest tunnel exposed by the IDF are staggering: It is
1.7 kilometers long and 1.80 meters tall, complete with an electricity supply
and telephone communications.
Some 24,000 cement slabs were used in its
construction, to reinforce the subterranean structure; this was cement Israel
sent to Gaza in order to assist the civilian construction sector.
light of the fact that it was the third tunnel to be uncovered this year, the
IDF is working on the assumption that there are more undiscovered tunnels out
there, and that Hamas is going to continue to try and dig its way under army
forces patrolling the border, toward frontier towns and villages.
tunnels present a double threat to Israeli security. The first lies in Hamas’s
ambitions to capture and kidnap IDF soldiers to trade for the release of
Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, in a bid to replicate their
successful Gilad Schalit exchange.
The second threat involves a scenario
of Hamas gunmen walking through the tunnels under the border and sneaking into a
civilian community to carry out a terrorist atrocity.
The tunnel is just
one aspect of a wider Hamas effort to rebuild its guerrilla military and
terrorist capabilities following its bruising clash with Israel in November
2012. These efforts include restocking its short- and medium-range rockets.
Hamas has at least 5,000 short-range rockets that put southern cities like
Ashkelon and Ashdod in range, and is attempting to create a new arsenal of
rockets that can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It is training and building
up its fighting forces, composed of 16,000 armed men.
On the Israeli side
of the border, the IDF isn’t resting on its laurels. The Southern Command is
enjoying an unprecedented level of intelligence on Hamas’s activities (as well
as information on Islamic Jihad and smaller al-Qaida-affiliated organizations in
Gaza). This intelligence can, in any future round of fighting, guide the IDF’s
devastating guided firepower. From the air, the IAF can hit well over 1,000
targets daily, and a ground offensive would threaten Hamas’s future existence as
a ruling regime.
On a day-to-day basis, the IDF deploys heavy border
patrols and monitors Gaza, with the help of advanced border and aerial
Aware of Israel’s might, Hamas is playing a
delicate balancing act, seeking to prepare surprises for Israel without directly
attacking it from Gaza.
The fact that Hamas is completely isolated in the
region only contributes further to Israeli deterrence against it.
the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Cairo, Hamas’s ambition to fall
under the wings of its fellow Egyptian Islamists and set up a regional alliance
of Islamist entities to threaten Israel, has been replaced with an anxious
search for new allies, and an attempt to fall back into the Iranian
The Egyptian military administration, under the leadership of Gen.
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has identified Hamas as a hostile branch of its domestic
foe the Muslim Brotherhood, and sees Gaza as a dangerous strip of land that can
be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons and fighters into Sinai to attack the
As a result, Egypt’s military has sealed off many
smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza, contributing to Hamas’s growing
Deterrence and isolation should keep the ceasefire with Hamas
going for a while longer, but Hamas’s increasingly desperate situation might
push it towards strategic errors and cause it to attack Israel.
the IDF felt the need to reemphasize its intentions to hit Hamas very hard
should it decide to use one of the tunnels soon.
“This is the third
tunnel we’ve found this year,” Southern Command chief Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman
told reporters this week, speaking near the tunnel’s entrance.
constitutes a gross violation of Israeli territory.
If Hamas carries out
a terrorist attack, it will pay a heavy prize, and Gaza will look different
afterwards,” he warned.
By telling Hamas that Israel is serious about
using overwhelming force in the event of a breakdown in the cease-fire, the IDF
increases the chances of maintaining the current period of calm.
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