The Israeli security establishment was not surprised by Wednesday's reports saying some smuggling tunnels under the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt have begun to operate again despite heavy bombing during the IDF's three-week offensive.
Security officials said Hamas had tried to resume the smuggling while Operation Cast Lead was still ongoing, adding that they estimate the bombed tunnels will soon be reconstructed.
"The tunnels along the Philadelphi route are Hamas' central smuggling pipeline, and it is clear they will not give them up," one official said. "However," he added, "as opposed to the past, now there are agreements according to which several elements will work to thwart their efforts. We all hope these agreements will be implemented."
Clearing tunnel in Rafah (Photo: AFP)
The IDF has estimated that about 80% of the tunnels along Philadelphi were damaged by the Israeli Air Force during the offensive. Despite the success, the army has admitted that there are hundreds of people in Rafah who are in the thriving smuggling business and that they will quickly begin to dig new tunnels or reconstruct the old ones.
The US, Egypt and Europe have pledged to work extensively toward blocking the smuggling.
"This is one of the most important issues vis-à-vis the strengthening of Hamas. There is no doubt that Hamas, whose arsenal has been significantly depleted, will try to replenish it with Iran's help not only for military purposes but also to boost morale by showing that the rebuilding process is progressing at a fast pace," a security official said.
"We must continue to monitor the situation closely and act accordingly."