When Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza last Thursday, one of the main stated objectives was to destroy the extensive network of underground tunnels that Hamas has built to funnel fighters across the border into Israel, as well as to transport supplies, store weapons and explosives, and provide a kind of safe house for high-level leaders. The Israeli military describes them as “terror tunnels.”
The scope of this complex network is vast. It’s an extraordinary piece of infrastructure that makes the 139-square-mile Gaza Strip a subterranean metropolis.
“All of Gaza is an underground city, and the amount of infrastructure Hamas built up over the years is immense,” according to Israeli military spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman. “There are tunnels, extended bunkers, weapons storage facilities, even within urban areas.” Hamas militants have used the tunnels to cross the border into Israel, killing or taking Israeli soldiers hostage. Hours before the current Israeli offensive began on Thursday, 13 Hamas fighters emerged from a tunnel about a mile from the Gaza border in Israel near a kibbutz called Sufa, armed with machine guns and grenades.
In October of last year, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) discovered one such tunnel just beyond the Gaza border in Israel. This is how the Washington Post describes it:
Not only was the burrow remarkable in depth and length–1.5 miles long and 66 feet underground–it was equipped with electricity and contained enough cookies, yogurt, and other provisions to last its occupants several months. Israeli forces estimated that Hamas had dumped $10 million and 800 tons of concrete into the two-year project.
The IDF has found 36 of these tunnels, but it’s likely that there’s even more, including those designed to smuggle goods in from Egypt, and tunnels designed specifically for Hamas commanders, who each have their own security tunnels, according to the news site Al-Monitor.
Read more about the tunnels from the Washington Post.