Fatal Tunnel Collapse Indicates Hamas Rebuilding Offensive Capabilities

Eight Hamas militants reportedly go missing after tunnel collapse in northern Gaza Strip.

Hamas operatives inside an underground tunnel in Gaza on August 18, 2014.
Mohammed Salem, Reuters

Eight Hamas militants were missing after a tunnel collapse in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reported on Wednesday.

The reports, which indicate that the group is working on rehabilitating its array of tunnels reaching into Israeli territory, were confirmed by Hamas' military wing, which said that it has lost contact with a unit of tunnel fighters after a collapse caused by inclement weather. According to the group, it is still searching for survivors.

Earlier this week, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, exploding in an open area near the border. No damage was caused. Earlier this month five rockets were fired, though only two exploded in Israeli territory, again causing no damage. 

Israel estimates that Hamas is investing efforts in restoring its military capability by building tunnels leading into Israeli territory and renewing its inventory of rockets, among other things. The IDF believes that there is a probability of a conflict in the Gaza Strip, but says that such an escalation could come either from a miscalculation of Israeli steps or reactions, or as a “no-choice” move on the part of Hamas, which will try to bring about a drastic change the situation prevailing in Gaza.

Hamas is investing great efforts and huge sums in the tunnel project. It is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge. During operation in the summer of 2014, Israel discovered 32 attack tunnels that the Palestinians had dug toward the Israeli border, a third of which penetrated into Israeli territory. The IDF announced that it had succeeded in destroying all of these tunnels, but since the war ended, the digging has resumed.