Hamas has been digging tunnels on the border of Egypt that are big enough to permit vehicles the size of trucks to go through, according to Egyptian security officials.
The tunnels connect the Gaza Strip with the Sinai Peninsula, and are being built in order to compensate for the tunnels which were flooded or blocked by the Egyptians.
Hamas tunnel during Operation Protective Edge (Photo: Reuters)
These enormous tunnels, some of which stretch for over three kilometers, are designed to traverse the security zone Egypt set up between the border with Gaza and the Sinai. This security zone – which ranges between half a kilometer and a kilometer in length on the Egyptian side – has been cleared out of any buildings or people. The area has also been flooded in order to block the existing shafts into the tunnels.
Hamas tunnel exposed from the Egyptian side
These tunnels are meant to transfer fighters and weapons, as well as building materials and other imports in an effort by Hamas to break the economic siege imposed on the Strip, Egyptian officials said.
Israeli security officials don't know of any tunnels that large crossing into Israel. However, if they do exist, Israel will have to take into account the possibility of the existence of tunnels that are over three kilometers in length, which will make them harder to find.
Hamas tunnel dug after Operation Protective Edge (Photo: Reuters)
Israel estimates that the recent increase in the number of tunnel collapses in Gaza in the past several months is due to the increased difficulty in obtaining materials to structurally support the tunnels – principally wood and cement. To replace these materials, Hamas is using fiberglass, which is also illegal to import into the Strip. Hamas still tries to smuggle it in, even though the material can't support the same amount of weight as cement, and collapses.
The Egyptian government also notes another worrying phenomenon regarding the relations between Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Sinai: it turns out that Hamas has become a weapons exporter to Egypt. In the past several months, several types of weapons were found by Egyptian security forces which bear the markings of being manufactured by the Hamas military wing.
Amongst the weapons found were solar water heaters filled with explosive materials, which are one of the deadliest weapons ISIS in Sinai uses against the Egyptian military. The solar water heaters are used as IEDs with the ability to take out a tank. A few years ago, Hamas used one of these IEDs and disabled an Israeli tank.
The Egyptian government also claims that ISIS shoots Hamas-made rockets at Egyptian military bases in the peninsula.
Weapons cache discovered in a tunnel in Gaza (Photo: IDF Spokespersons Unit)
Hamas also ships weapons from the Gaza Strip to elements affiliated with global Islamic Jihad which is active in Sinai. These are weapons which were smuggled into Gaza either by the Iranians or from Libya, which then ended up in the hands of the jihadists.
At present, there is a new reason to worry – the export of weapons made in the Strip in industrial quantaties is a new phenomenon which indicates a new level of institutionalization of the weapons manufacturing process in the Gaza Strip