Terror tunnels are not a new invention in the field of combat. In the 1960s the North Koreans dug nearly 20 huge tunnels leading to South Korea. Entire divisions could pass through some of these tunnels in less than half a day.
Hamas resorted to this method of terror after realizing that it had pretty much exhausted the possibilities of rocket, mortar and even missile attacks. Hamas discovered the potential of these tunnels as a means of carrying out terror attacks during the second intifada, when the IDF still held positions in Gaza. Such tunnels were used to carry out the underground attack on an army position in the Kerem Shalom area and on at least one other IDF post in the area.
But the most successful tunnel attack took place in 2006, when terrorists managed to kidnap IDF soldier Gilad Shalit into Gaza. Since then, the Palestinian factions have been digging large tunnels through which fighters can pass without even having to crouch. The purpose of these tunnels is not only to infiltrate Israeli territory in order to kidnap, but also to plant bombs, gather intelligence and relocate members to the West Bank.
In order to disrupt the construction of these tunnels, Israel prevented the transfer of building material into Gaza, but due to international pressure it was forced to lift the ban and allow aid organizations to transfer building material into the Hamas-ruled territory. The material was supposed to be used in various welfare projects benefiting the community. Israel initially demanded that the aid groups make certain that the material is used solely for these projects, but lately, in order to ease some of the economic pressure on Gaza, Israel decided to allow the transfer of construction materials for use by private builders in Gaza.
Tunnel uncovered by IDF (Photo: AFP)
As expected, Hamas used these materials for fortification and the construction of tunnels running from Gaza into Israeli territory. The terror tunnel that was exposed to the public on Sunday was filled with building material that originated in Israel and Egypt. The army revealed the discovery of the tunnel in order to show the international community, including Turkey's Erdogan, that Hamas is taking advantage of Israel's decision to ease restrictions on Gaza in order to build terror tunnels.
This may also have diplomatic repercussions. Hamas is in desperate need of donations from the international community now that it is no longer receiving monetary aid from Iran, which financed a large part of the Hamas regime's activities and contributed to its survival. Now that this connection has been severed, and in light of the developments in Syria, Hamas needs civilian aid from the international community more than ever before. This is one of the reasons why Hamas is working to prevent rocket fire on Israel. The uncovering of the terror tunnel indicates that Hamas has not stopped its violent terrorist activity; it has merely replaced one method with another.
The exposure of the tunnel was also meant to show the Israeli public that after years of failed efforts, the IDF has finally developed a system that allows it to unearth these tunnels and neutralize the threats they entail.
Let's not get carried away. The new system is actually a combination of old methods and means which, together with intelligence information, increases the chances that such tunnels will be discovered. This is good news, but it does not indicate that the army has found all of the terror tunnels. This system must be perfected; otherwise, one day we may see dozens of armed terrorists carrying bombs infiltrating one of the Israeli communities near Gaza. This is the greatest threat. All they need is one tunnel that will not be uncovered by the IDF.