Israel has discovered a sprawling network of Hamas militant tunnels underneath Gaza, far larger and more sophisticated than previously thought. The tunnels, used by Hamas to store weapons and move fighters, stretch over 350 miles in length with over 5,000 access points across Gaza.
Traces of Hostages Found in Tunnels
The IDF recently uncovered a major tunnel in Khan Yunis where Hamas is believed to have held Israeli hostages during the last war. Traces of human presence, including makeshift living quarters, were found inside. Israel maintains Hamas has been holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in action since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians who crossed into Gaza.
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht stated “We have discovered irrefutable evidence that Hamas imprisoned Israeli hostages in inhumane conditions deep underground.” The tunnel had electricity, ventilation, communications equipment, stockpiles of food and water, and access to bathroom facilities.
Human rights groups have condemned Hamas for violating international law by refusing the Red Cross access to the missing Israelis. Hamas claims it lost track of the hostages when Israel bombed portions of the tunnel network last year. But the IDF is skeptical, noting the hidden underground room appears untouched by Israeli airstrikes.
Over 6,000 Tons of Concrete Used in Tunnel Construction
Israel Defense Force (IDF) engineers estimate that over 6,000 tons of concrete were poured to reinforce the tunnels uncovered so far, enough to build dozens of large apartment buildings. Over 1,800 tons of steel rebar were also used.
The IDF accuses Hamas of stealing humanitarian supplies intended for civilian construction projects in order to divert them into tunnel building. Sarit Braunstein, an IDF spokesperson said: “Rather than using construction materials to build bomb shelters for the people of Gaza, Hamas wasted these precious resources on tunnel networks to attack Israeli communities.”
Hamas Deceived Donors to Fund Tunnel Network
An investigation by Israeli military intelligence found that Hamas deceived well-meaning donors in order to obtain funding for its tunnel infrastructure, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Hamas front companies in Turkey and Qatar submitted bogus invoices to international organizations showing fake construction projects. The donated money was then smuggled into Gaza through intermediaries and used to purchase tunnel building supplies.
IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi stated: “Hamas has taken advantage of the goodwill of international donors. This is money that could have built new schools, hospitals and homes for the people of Gaza.”
Ceasefire in Jeopardy as Fighting Continues
A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants in Gaza remains tenuous as sporadic rocket attacks and Israeli retaliatory strikes persist. Over 150 Hamas and PIJ targets have been hit by Israel Defense Forces in the past week.
PIJ operatives remain on high alert with fighters stationed inside the tunnels in preparation for additional clashes. A PIJ spokesman threatened “The ceasefire could collapse at any moment. Our fighters are ready to blast Tel Aviv with missiles.”
The fighting has left 43 Palestinians dead, including 15 children. Gaza health officials report 364 Palestinians injured.
Hamas Tunnel Network Expected to Trigger Israeli Ground Invasion
Israeli military analysts predict the IDF may launch another ground invasion of Gaza to fully eliminate the Hamas tunnel threat. A similar incursion in 2014 destroyed 32 tunnels, but many more have been constructed since then.
“These tunnels clearly pose an intolerable threat, allowing militants to sneak into Israel for kidnapping and terrorist attacks,” said former national security advisor Yaakov Amidror. “Israel cannot allow this underground city of warfare right on its border to stand.”
Hamas leaders have vowed to turn Gaza into a “graveyard” for Israeli soldiers if the IDF enters the coastal enclave again. A protracted urban battle with Hamas would likely result in significant casualties on both sides.
The Israeli cabinet is weighing options for neutralizing the tunnels without a risky ground offensive. Alternatives include flooding tunnels with seawater, intensive aerial bombing, and sending combat robots into the narrow underground passages. But experts say these methods can only do so much damage.
As tensions rise, the Israeli Home Front Command has been preparing citizens for the possibility of an imminent Gaza war. Gas mask distribution centers have reopened and bomb shelters are being inspected across southern Israel.
Prospects for Long-Term Truce Remain Grim
Hopes for a durable Israel-Hamas ceasefire agreement remain dim despite continuing efforts by the UN and Egypt to broker a deal. Israel insists on demilitarizing Gaza, while Hamas refuses to give up its vast arsenal of rockets and mortars.
“How can we reach understandings with them when the tunnels continue to be dug under our territory?” asked Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Unless a breakthrough can be achieved in Egyptian-led negotiations set to resume in Cairo next month, another major round of Hamas-Israel fighting appears inevitable. With over 5,000 tunnel access points hidden across Gaza, Israel faces a complex game of underground “whack-a-mole” during any future clash.
|Length of Tunnels Discovered (mi)
|Concrete Used (tons)
|Steel Rebar Used (tons)
|Funding Diverted to Tunnels
|UN Relief Works Agency
|Qatar Charity Foundation
|Turkish Humanitarian Relief
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