Since the beginning of ground operations in the Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers have located over 800 shafts to Hamas’ underground terror tunnels.
About 500 of the tunnel shafts have been destroyed using a variety of operational methods, including explosives and blocking agents. Some of the tunnel shafts connected Hamas' strategic assets via the underground tunnel network. In addition, many miles of the tunnel routes have been destroyed.
The tunnel shafts were located in civilian areas, many of which were near or inside civilian buildings and structures, such as schools, kindergartens, mosques and playgrounds. IDF soldiers located large quantities of weapons inside some of the tunnel shafts.
These findings are further proof of how Hamas deliberately uses the civilian population and infrastructure as a cover for its terrorist activity inside Gaza, according to the IDF.
After locating the shafts, IDF troops carry out thorough investigations in order to understand the characteristics of the tunnels and then prepare the underground route for its destruction.
The idea for Gaza's underground tunnel network was the brainchild of arch-terrorist Yahya Sinwar, who in 1998 while a prisoner in an Israeli prison came up with a novel idea. With two cellmates, Hamas terrorists Rouhi Moushtaha and Tawfik Abu Naim, Sinwar planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier from the Gaza Strip, which was then still under full IDF control and, through a tunnel, smuggle him into Egypt.
With direct permission from Hamas' leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the three terrorists led by Sinwar, from prison, started planning an abduction operation. At their orders, Hamas operatives in the Rafiah area were sent to dig a tunnel beneath the perimeter fence with Egypt. Although tunnels had existed here before, they had generally been for criminal smuggling. Sinwar’s tunnel was Hamas’s first terror tunnel.
The following year, Israeli intelligence exposed Sinwar’s tunnel. Inside, they found rail tracks with carriages, a lighting system, ventilation pipes, and telephone lines. It was 25 feet underground and 250 feet long – then a record in Gaza.
Some 24 years later, Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, rules a vast underground system built underneath the whole of the coastal strip. It includes command and control rooms, communication ventilation and systems, fuel, water, and food storage facilities, concealed pits for rocket launchers, and halls for managing fighters and storing military equipment. An underground city of terror.
The tunnels are invariably accessed via civilian homes, allowing Hamas terrorists to walk the streets in civilian clothing, and then go down into a tunnel to equip themselves with weapons and uniforms. In the tunnels, Hamas also has equipment for rocket and mortar launching, observation capabilities, intelligence gathering, sharpshooting, and bomb-making.
Meanwhile, Sinwar himself is currently hiding in one such underground tunnel. From here, Sinwar commands the campaign against Israel. Hundreds of Hamas terrorists habitually hide in the concrete-reinforced tunnels burrowed through Gaza’s sandy ground. In addition, Israeli intelligence believes that some of the Israeli hostages are held in the hundreds of tunnels crisscrossing Gaza, some of which were used in the October 7 attack.
Hamas’ has built the tunnels at the expense of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, for example taking high-quality cement provided as aid by other countries for itself and giving the citizens low-quality, cheap cement.
Several weeks ago Hamas politburo member Musa Abu-Marzuk admitted that the tunnels built in Gaza are designed to protect Hamas rather than the residents of the Gaza Strip.
When asked in an October 27 television interview: “Since you have built 500 kilometers of tunnels, why haven't you built bomb shelters, where civilians can hide during bombardment," he responded: "We have built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being targeted and killed. These tunnels are meant to protect us from the airplanes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels.”