Hamas announced Wednesday that two top members of the terror organization had been killed in a tunnel collapse in central Gaza Tuesday night. One of them, 39-year-old Fuad A’asor, was a commander in Hamas’s military wing, while the other was Haider a-Zahar, a close relative of Hamas head Mahmoud a-Zahar.
Army Radio quoted Hamas reports as saying that eight people had been injured in the tunnel collapse. This is the second time in less than two weeks that tunnel collapses have killed Hamas members; over the weekend, Hamas confirmed that a tunnel had collapsed with more than a dozen of its terrorists inside. Eight were killed, with the rest rescued from the tunnel. As the funeral was taking place, Hamas Damascus head Ismail Haniyeh said in a social media post that “the men of Hamas are digging their way to the liberation of Jerusalem,” and that “we continue to dig tunnels in east Gaza and conduct missile tests in west Gaza.”
The report quoted Hamas sources as saying that tunnels were a central component of Hamas’s attack strategy against Israel. For months, rumors have circulated that Hamas has taken up its tunnel-building activities again, after halting in the wake of Operation Protective Edge last year. A number of tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel were used by the terror group during the war to carry out attacks, such as the one that killed IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, during the war, when he descended into a tunnel to blow it up.
Over the weekend, Channel One broadcast a news report that quoted dozens of residents of the towns and farms living along the border area, who claim to have heard sounds of construction under their homes – drilling, hammering, and other similar sounds, as well as voices speaking Arabic. Several residents recorded the sounds, and they were played back for the hundreds of thousands of people who tuned in for the program.
In the wake of the report, the IDF has begun examining complaints and reports of underground activity in the Gaza border area, in order to determine if Gaza terrorists are indeed building tunnels into Israel. Speaking to Israel Radio Tuesday, former National Security Council head Giora Eiland said that while the IDF was digging up areas near the Gaza border where the sounds had been heard, nothing had been found yet – but that could mean that the army was not looking in the right place, or that Hamas was digging tunnels to a depth below the area that the IDF had dug.
Speaking Sunday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu related to the tunnel issue as well. “We are working systematically and level-headedly against all threats, including the threat from Hamas, with both defensive and offensive measures,” Netanyahu told a gathering of Israeli ambassadors. “Of course, if we are attacked from tunnels from the Gaza Strip, we will take very strong action against Hamas, much stronger than we took in Operation Protective Edge.”