(Illustration) Syrian rebels take positions i
(Illustration) Syrian rebels take positions i Reuters

Syrian regime forces operating in the suburbs of the capital Damascus on Monday made a startling discovery: a "terror tunnel" along the lines of the one recently discovered by Israeli security forces along the perimeter with Hamas-controlled Gaza, leading all the way to neighboring Deraa.

Rebel forces had apparently been using the tunnel to shuttle men and equipment between the southeastern suburb of Damascus to the flashpoint city of Deraa, which has strategic significance due to its close proximity to the Al-Mazza military airport.

The tunnel was approximately 10 meters deep, 250-300 meters long and was equipped with lighting and openings for ventilation.

The discovery of the tunnel comes just days after a similar, though somewhat more sophisticated tunnel was discovered by Israeli security forces leading from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip towards neighboring Israeli communities. Security sources have speculated that the tunnel could have been used to carry out attacks against Israeli soldiers or civilians.

Since the start of the uprising against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the Hamas movement - once close to Damascus - quickly shifted its allegiance to back the rebels, prompting the Syrian government to expel the movement from its Damascus headquarters.

Hamas has since attempted to keep a low profile on the conflict, seeking to avoid clashing with either of its major patrons - Qatar, which supports the rebels, and Iran, which supports the regime. However, reports soon surfaced of Hamas fighters training rebel fighters in urban warfare, including the use of tunnels to launch attacks and move equipment, a tactic which the group has carefully honed over years of conflict with Israel.

Though the use of tunnels in asymmetrical warfare is nothing new, in light of the above - as well as the fact that the skills necessary for such an operation would require significant training from somewhere - means that the similarities between the two cases may be more than a coincidence.

The fact that Hamas' own tactics - once sponsored by the Assad regime as a means to murder Israeli civilians - are now being utilized in the battle to oust its former ally, bears testament to the unpredictable nature of the Middle East's patchwork of competing and ever-changing alliances.  

Though the use of tunnels in asymmetrical warfare is nothing new, the similarities between the two cases may be more than a coincidence.
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