Residents of Gaza have grown wary of building tunnels to Egypt following a series of accidents in which dozens have been killed, according to the Hebrew-language daily Maariv. The growing fear of the tunnels trade may be linked to IAF operations as well.
Air force strikes on tunnels have had the effect of driving Hamas and other groups to dig further underground, according to security sources quoted by the paper. The deeper tunnels are more dangerous than those previously used, and an increasing number of Gaza men are meeting their deaths while attempting to create new tunnels.
More than 120 residents of Gaza have been killed in tunnels since Hamas took power in mid-2007.
Egyptian forces have played a role in the growing dangers of the tunnel trade as well. Egyptian troops near Gaza have been working with the United States military, and making use of American technology, to improve their ability to locate the estimated hundreds of tunnels to Egypt originating in Gaza.
Fatah sources in Gaza revealed that in recent months, Hamas has reported an increasing number of members dead in “work accidents.” While the deaths are publicly linked to accidents in “military operations,” those killed were known to be tunnel diggers working in the Rafiah area, and were actually killed while attempting to smuggle goods and weapons into Gaza, the sources said.
Since the Hamas takeover, Gaza's borders with Egypt and Israel have been closed to most forms of trade. Humanitarian supplies such as food and medical and veterinary equipment have been allowed in from Israel, while students and pilgrims have periodically been allowed to enter and exit Gaza via Egypt. All other goods, including weapons, drugs, and even motorcycles and cars, have been imported via the Rafiah tunnels.
Hamas's response to its members' fear of building tunnels has been swift, senior Israeli military sources said. Those who refuse to build tunnels have been fired and their salaries cut off.