Security expert: Hamas in race to use terror tunnels before Israel destroys them all

Israeli technology has proved successful in locating and blocking Hamas tunnels. The terror group is afraid that it’s losing a major strategic weapon and could take desperate measures.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The destruction of a massive Hamas tunnel under the Gaza border Saturday night has clearly demonstrated that Israel now has the technology to find tunnels, and together with the physical barrier being constructed, the entire Hamas tunnel enterprise may soon be out of business.

The tunnel, discovered near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where Egypt, Israel and Gaza meet, is the fourth one discovered since October.

The latest tunnel demolition poses a major dilemma for Hamas terrorists as they come to understand that Israel is depriving them of a major offensive asset. The combination of technology, intelligence and a physical underground barrier are convincing Hamas that time is running out for its tunnel enterprise.

World Israel News (WIN) discussed the issue with security expert Yoni Ben Menachem.

WIN: Yet another terror tunnel was discovered coming from Gaza under the Israeli border. What were the terrorists actually targeting?

Ben Menachem: This terror tunnel was not only entering Israel, it was also entering Egyptian territory and was in clear violation of both Israeli and Egyptian sovereignty. Ironically, they were targeting the Palestinians’ economic lifeline. Kerem Shalom is a commercial passage where thousands of trucks cross the border with merchandise from Israel, bringing  supplies to the two million Palestinian residents of Gaza, and the crossing is also used by Palestinians to export commodities and merchandise to Israel and then on to Europe and other countries. This is the economic oxygen of the Gaza Strip. According to security forces, the Hamas plan was to blow up the entire complex.

WIN: Who did they aim to kill?

Ben Menachem: They probably planned to blow up the Israeli side of the passage. They would have killed Israeli security forces, drivers, and all the others who are working at the crossing. This could have been a mega terror attack.

WIN: So while Israelis talk about opening up the borders and bringing in Palestinian goods and humanitarian aid, the Palestinian side is trying to destroy the border crossing?

Ben Menachem: It’s not the Palestinian side. I am sure that most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip want to live quietly and they want this passage to operate in and out of the Gaza Strip. It’s the leadership of Hamas, the military wing of Hamas. It’s their strategy. This was their target, and it’s very alarming. It shows that they have no intention of seeking a long truce with Israel, as some would like to believe. They are looking for confrontation, and this is very dangerous.

WIN: Is digging tunnels becoming more difficult Hamas since Israel has been working on its underground obstacles since 2014? Are we in effect close to a tunnel solution?

Ben Menachem:  Yes. The Palestinians are starting to realize that they have to make a strategic decision about the tunnels. For them the tunnels are a form of deterrence, but now Israel has found both technical and physical solutions. In the recent period we found four tunnels. Hamas is starting to see that its  strategic weapon is going to disappear and they will have nothing to surprise Israel with.

WIN: So will they freeze it or keep on building?

Ben Menachem: You have to understand that the project of the tunnels is the most prestigious and expensive project in Gaza. Hamas spends millions of dollars on this project with hundreds of workers digging underground. They must make a decision because this effort could become useless by the end of 2018.

WIN: Well, that’s good news.

Ben Menachem: Not so fast. They may become desperate to use the tunnels while they still can. I think they will decide to use the tunnels before they are destroyed by the Israeli army. This is very dangerous because they could enter Israel, kidnap soldiers and launch attacks. They still have more tunnels. We know where some of them are. Israel will speed up efforts to destroy the tunnels quickly, while Hamas is rushing to make the tunnels operational so that they can use them to enter Israel and capture soldiers to use in a future prisoner exchange. They are under pressure and are that much more dangerous in the short term.