An IDF appraisal of the current security threats published on Wednesday morning estimates that over 1,000 Hamas terrorists are currently working on digging one central terror tunnel leading deep into sovereign Israeli territory.
The estimation, published in Yedioth Aharonoth, shows a sharp break from past activity when Hamas worked on constructing dozens of smaller tunnels simultaneously. Around 30 such tunnels were destroyed in 2014 Operation Protective Edge, but Hamas has since been busy rebuilding the system.
According to the report, the digging on the main tunnel is advancing at a pace of 50 meters (around 55 yards) a day, and the decision to focus on one central and high-quality tunnel was made by Hamas management in light of the lessons of Protective Edge.
Hamas intends to use the tunnel so as to transport its terrorists deep into Israeli territory and launch a massive surprise attack. The estimation states that the tunnel already crossed under the border fence a considerable time ago.
One hundred special engineering vehicles have been deployed by the IDF to the Gazan front according to the report, including 30 drills which are digging down to search for the tunnels based on intelligence information. However, currently there are still no results to show for the efforts. On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said the tunnels in Gaza are now the army's main priority.
The report on one major tunnel being constructed confirms the warnings made by Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Langotzki to Arutz Sheva earlier this week. Langotzki, a leading expert on the war on terror tunnels, said that the current activities by security forces to locate the tunnels come too late, as the tunnels have already crossed under the border and reach into Israeli territory.
He also warned that the threat of tunnels exists on the northern border as well, with Hezbollah's tunnel digging abilities already having been proven in the First and Second Lebanon Wars.
Before Protective Edge Hamas had built 33 tunnels over the course of four years, which it unveiled to limited effect during the confrontation. However, the terrorist group has yet to reestablish its tunnel system to where it was at before the war.
Israelis living in the surrounding environs of Gaza have reported hearing the sound of digging from beneath their homes, with vibrations even shaking their houses. Those reports have come from as far as four kilometers and more in from the border fence, which the IDF apparently takes as meaning that the sounds are not from digging given the distance. However, the IDF says it continues to take every warning seriously and searches for the tunnels, even though currently nothing has been found.
Last Thursday, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira sent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) a draft of his report on Israel’s handling of the tunnel threat, which details serious defects in the government's handling of the terror tunnel issue.
Hamas's increasing tunneling activity has been seen in a series of five tunnel collapses in the last two or so weeks, in which 11 Gazans have died. One of the tunnels was a smuggling tunnel on the Egyptian border of Gaza, while all the rest were terror tunnels where the collapse victims were Hamas terrorists.