This article was provided by the London Israeli Embassy today (24th July)
Hamas has built an extensive network of tunnels that run from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory. The tunnels are used by groups of terrorists to cross under the border to try and carry out attacks, murdering and kidnapping Israeli citizens.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, IDF has discovered 23 tunnels, some of which had exit points inside Israeli territory. The rest are used for other terrorist purposes.
Attack tunnels are dug starting at a site hidden within the Gaza Strip, most often private homes, greenhouses or public buildings. They then make their way underground for up to two kilometers (approximately a mile) until they reach their destination deep inside Israeli territory.
These terror tunnels are very different from the smuggling tunnels that ran between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Not only is the purpose of the two types of tunnels different, they also differ physically. The terror tunnels are far more sophisticated. They are much longer, deeper and more difficult to uncover. They are well-equipped with electrical and communication devices. Terror tunnels can take a year or more to complete and require significant financial resources, engineering knowledge, manpower and supplies (a single tunnel can require up to 500 tons of concrete).
Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel several times through tunnels during Operation Protective Edge in order carry out their deadly terrorist attacks. Their goal of murdering and kidnapping Israelis is evidenced by the weapons, plastic handcuffs and anesthesia taken from the terrorists that managed to infiltrate Israeli territory:
Early in the morning of 17 July, 13 Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel only 1.5 km (less than an mile) away from Sufa, a kibbutz (agricultural village) near the border with the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, they were discovered by the IDF before they could invade the village. Some of the terrorists were injured, while others succeeded in escaping. Two Israeli soldiers were killed by the heavily-armed Hamas terrorists.
On 19 July, in another attempt to harm Israeli civilians, a group of Hamas terrorists crossed under the border and emerged 700 meters (765 yards) from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. Again, IDF soldiers identified the group in time and prevented them from attacking the village.
On 20 July, a massive terror tunnel was discovered by IDF forces 170 meters (186 yards) inside Israel, near Kibbutz Nativ HaAsara. Residents of the village had to stay indoors and lock their doors and windows until it could be confirmed that no terrorists had used the tunnel yet.
On 21 July, more than 10 heavily-armed terrorists infiltrated Israel through another tunnel. They were planning to split into two groups: one to attack Kibbutz Erez and the other Kibbutz Nir-Am. The terrorists were wearing IDF uniforms to deceive civilians and Israeli security forces. Ten of the terrorists were killed by IDF, but unfortunately four IDF soldiers were also killed during the battle.
Terror tunnels have also been used prior to Operation Protective Edge:
The day before the start of the operation, another disaster was averted when a large terror tunnel near the Gaza border was uncovered and destroyed (7 July) before it could be used.
In October 2013, the IDF discovered the opening of a tunnel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. The tunnel, which stretched into Israel from the city of Khan Yunis in Gaza, was approximately 1.7 kilometers (1 mile) long and 18 meters (59 feet) deep. The elaborate tunnel took Hamas more than a year to complete.
The ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, which began on 17 July, is aimed at destroying the terrorist tunnels from Gaza.