Israel/Gaza: the border underground

//An Israeli soldier patrols inside the tunnel dug by Hamas.

At the beginning of October, Israel Defence Force members discovered an “illegal” underground walkway near Ein Hashlosha kibbutz along the border between Israel and Gaza. About 1.7 km long, equipped with electricity and a railway line, the tunnel was large enough to allow the passage of two people and was excavated to a depth of 18 meters to make it more difficult to detect. At the time of the discovery, the excavations had gone on for about 200 meters into Israeli territory and they were two meters under the surface. According to government sources, the gallery was designed to allow Hamas to strike military and civilian targets in the country. The army spokesman, Sergeant Yoav Mordechai, called it “one of the most advanced tunnels of terror discovered in recent years”.

The reaction from Israel was immediate: a few days after the discovery of the tunnel, the military began to demolish it. During the operation there were clashes with Hamas, leaving 8 militants dead and 5 soldiers injured.

The military spokesman Peter Lerner called the mission “crucial to prevent future attacks against Israeli civilians” and the leaders of the Councils of the area close to the Gaza Strip have tried to put pressure on the government to raise the number of troops and security vehicles in the area to monitor and protect their communities.

In an article published in Ha'aretz, Amira Hass, correspondent of the newspaper in Ramallah wrote: “To show Israel its vulnerability is a source of power”. “Near the entrance of the tunnel is the “little Israel”, a little hysterical and proud to have such an army with all those commanders with their golden pensions. So what is the lesson? More security and more officials.”

“Why shouldn’t Hamas dig tunnels?” Hass continued. “What makes a tunnel more “terrorist” than a military ship that fires on a fisherman or the use of drones? Everyone has their own resources in the arms race.”

Meanwhile, Abu Obeida, the spokesman of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza announced on his Twitter account that “the resistance” would dig thousands of new tunnels to hit the enemy.

tunel 333Formerly, during the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah had created a dense network of underground tunnels tens of kilometers long in the south of the country to use as a refuge in case of air attacks, shelter for wounded militants and deposit for the missiles. According to analysts, there’s the possibility that some of these tunnels may have been widened over the years, branching out towards Israel.

Hamas, too, had opened tunnels on the border with Egypt to circumvent the embargo, but they were heavily bombed by the army during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009, and after the change of regime in Cairo, they were definitely closed.

As in all asymmetric wars, the weaker is often forced to use its ingenuity with obsolete techniques and unpredictable strategies to defend itself or attack the more powerful and better equipped enemy. The overland passage between the Gaza Strip and Israel is blocked by the wall and the Iron Drone system neutralizes any missile, so the border line is slowly moving underground.

The border between the two territories is becoming more and more dangerous and unstable despite the erection of new barriers (of electricity and cement) that in recent years the outer perimeters of both territories are forcedly reshaped.

According to Israeli military sources, 30 per cent of Hamas’s budget is invested in the construction of the tunnels: the Jewish state risks turning into an impregnable fortress but with weak foundations.



Federica Araco

Translated from Italian by Övgü Pınar









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