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Hamas preparing 'offensive' tunnels

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition


Dec. 10, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST

Israel is likely to face advanced Iranian weaponry, long-range rockets, large missile silos and dozens of kilometers of underground tunnels connecting open fields with urban centers in the event of a future conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest Israeli assessments.

Since Operation Cast Lead ended almost a year ago, Hamas has increased its weapons smuggling and today operates hundreds of tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. It has smuggled in dozens of long-range Iranian-made rockets that can reach Tel Aviv as well as advanced anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles.

Hamas is believed to have a significant number of shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles and 9M113 Konkurs, which have a range of four kilometers and are capable of penetrating heavy armor.

In addition, Hamas is believed to have today a few thousand rockets, including several hundred with a range of 40 kilometers and several dozen with a range of between 60 and 80 km. Intelligence assessments are that Hamas smuggled the missiles into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, possibly in several components.

Iran already supplies Hamas with 122mm Katyusha rockets that are smuggled into Gaza in several pieces and then assembled by Hamas engineers.

One of the main lessons Hamas learned from Cast Lead was the need to reinforce its defenses and as a result has invested efforts in digging additional tunnels, which connect open fields with homes belonging to key operatives as well as command centers.

The idea is to enable freedom of movement for the operatives between different battlefields, which it found difficult during Israel's ground offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

Hamas has also increased its use of civilian infrastructure, particularly mosques, which the terror group already used quite extensively for storage and launching rockets during the operation. Hamas is believed to have taken control of almost 80 percent of the mosques in Gaza, using them to store weapons and set up command-and-control centers.

Hamas, is "padding" itself as well by setting up its command centers in large apartment buildings. This way, it believes, the IDF will not attack them by air, and will need to send ground forces deep into the population centers, where it will lose its technological advantage.

In addition, Hamas is hoping to increase the effectiveness of its rocket capability during a future conflict and has created large missile silos.

Hamas has also recently increased its efforts to dig what the IDF calls "offensive tunnels" close to the border with Israel, which the terror group could use to infiltrate into Israel and kidnap soldiers.

These tunnels are believed to be of strategic value for Hamas, which would only use them for large-scale attacks and high-value targets.