Inside the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's tunnel into Israel
Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel discovered near Kissufim was dug 20 meters a day, in three shifts working 24 hours a day; canoe-like boats were used to ferry cement slabs, clear out debris; 'Gaza doesn't have to be Somalia,' says IDF officer, 'but it's getting there. Hamas has reached conclusion offensive tunnels have lost efficacy.'
New information was revealed Thursday regarding the Gaza terrorist organizations' ongoing effort to carry out terrorist attacks using tunnels—specifically divulging details regarding the excavation of a prior Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel—and also in the wake of the demolition of the Hamas tunnel underneath the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
A prior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) tunnel, discovered and neutralized by the IDF in late November, ran 200 meters into Israeli territory, and was only two kilometers away from the Kissufim kibbutz in the south of the Gaza perimeter.
The tunnel, which the IDF consented to be photographed Thursday, was excavated at a rate of 10-20 meters a day, while its maximal depth was 26 meters.
For comparison's sake, the Hamas tunnel taken out by the army in mid-December ran a full kilometer into Israeli land.
The PIJ's methods, meanwhile, included relatively rudimentary navigation, but one that nevertheless allowed the tunnel's route to be directed east into Israel. Works were carried out six days a week—every day except Friday—for 24 hours a day in three shifts.
Workers' deployment consisted of several Palestinian diggers at the front of the tunnel and the remaining assisting in logistical operations to fix any mishaps, swap out gear and so on.
Sensitive operations, however, such as actually crossing into Israel or moving armaments through the tunnel were performed—using cross-organizational cooperation—by Hamas's special Nukhba force.
Diggers used canoe-shaped plastic boats to ferry arches and concrete slabs to reinforce the tunnel's walls on one end and remove excess dirt and earth on the other.
Curiously, there were no efforts made to hide the mounds of dirt accumulating on the Gazan side of the tunnel, while the concrete slabs were brought in from factories all across the strip.
In order to breathe properly during their work, diggers used pipes blowing air into the tunnel or oxygen tanks. When the IDF blew the tunnel up, seven terrorists were killed on the Israeli side and five on the Gazan side.
IDF sources said the use of tunnels by rogue organizations was possible, but opening on the Gaza side were securely guarded by Hamas.
"With each passing day, Hamas is growing to realize it has no reason to invest in offensive tunnels anymore," said a senior Southern Command officer. "It may divert resources to other projects such as drones, or improving the precision of its rockets.
"The effort to thwart the danger of tunnels is not a 'one and done' thing. We've completed four kilometers of the subterranean barrier wall and used other means to uncover the most recent tunnels. We'll conclude more than 50 percent of the wall by the end of the year and finish it completely in 18 months.
"We started (work on the wall) near more threatened environs such as Sderot, Netiv HaAsara and Nahal Oz and we'll work our way south from there. Hamas looks on with despair at our anti-tunnel project. (However) The day we conclude the barrier's creation is not the day we'll go on an initiated war."
The officer also commented on the precarious humanitarian situation in the strip and said, "Gaza is in the direst condition it's been in for a decade, as evidenced by the number of trucks loaded with goods passing into Gaza from Kerem Shalom, which went down from 8000 to 1,200 a day to merely 300 or 400.
"It's a sign of the strip's weakening purchasing power and its 46 percent unemployment. That's also the reason Hamas sought reconciliation and allowed the Palestinian Authority to control the passages and collect taxes. Gaza will never be Singapore, but it doesn't have to be Somalia either. And it's drawing nearer to the latter. The solution will not come from American aid to UNRWA (the United Nations agency to assist Palestinian refugees—ed) but international projects."
The source further noted Gaza will remain in its current predicament so long as the issue of Israeli captives in Hamas hands was not resolved.
He also expounded the organization had no interest in undertaking a campaign against Israel, partly due to Israeli deterrence still being in place. In the past several months, 23 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire in Gaza, with Hamas not responding. Twelve of the Palestinians were killed when the PIJ's tunnel collapsed, two in air force attacks on Hamas targets and the remainder in protests near the fence.