Gaza's Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel's Defenses : Parallels Hamas militants are using tunnels in and out of Gaza to strike inside Israel. Israelis are questioning how the tunnels grew to be so complex and why the military hasn't been able to shut them down.
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Gaza's Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel's Defenses

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Gaza's Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel's Defenses

Gaza's Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel's Defenses

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Israel says it invaded the Gaza Strip in part to destroy tunnels used by militants. Today, a Hamas video claims to show an attack launched on Israeli troops from a tunnel. Israelis are asking why their forces didn't stop Hamas from building the underground network in the first place, and some want an investigation. NPR 's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has that story.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: In the grainy Hamas video, black-clad militants shove their weapons through a tunnel entrance, then climb out and run toward what looks like an army post inside Israel. Five soldiers were killed in yesterday's attack, as were a handful of Hamas fighters. Israeli officials say the militants' aim was to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens. Such revelations are rattling Israelis more than the 2000 plus rockets Hamas has fired into their country since the war began earlier this month says Smadar Perry, who writes about the tunnels for Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

SMADAR PERRY: Nobody wants to go to sleep and wake up with killers and terrorists in his bedroom.

NELSON: But she and other journalists say how Hamas was able to build enough tunnels to allow militants to infiltrate Israel six times since the Gaza offensive began is something Israeli authorities will likely have to answer for. At a briefing earlier this week, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz defended how authorities have dealt with the tunnels of which the military says 32 have been uncovered so far.

YUVAL STEINITZ: You know it's not always the case that if we have some threats we decide immediately to go to a big ground operation in order to neutralize it.

NELSON: Perry, however, says she found few officials who were concerned about the tunnels before some of the newer, more sophisticated versions were accidentally uncovered earlier this year. The journalist toured one of them with a senior Israeli officer.

PERRY: It was very strange. I could feel or I could sense the officer and the military feel helpless because these four tunnels were exposed by coincidence because of the heavy rains and not because of intelligence.

NELSON: Military officials deny they were negligent in tackling the tunnels and say they use both intelligence and technology to plot them. But what they and their critics agree on is that previous encounters with the tunnels - and most of those were in between the Gaza Strip and Egypt - were less worrying because they were mainly used for smuggling. They say wasn't until Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 that a labyrinth was created to send militants into Israel for large-scale attacks. Israeli officials say, because the settlements were gone, it made it more difficult to keep tabs on what Hamas was doing. Israeli reserve Brigadier General Shimon Daniel headed the combat engineering force between 2003 and 2007.

SHIMON DANIEL: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: He says it wasn't easy to uncover tunnels even back then because they are not deep enough for ground penetration radar to locate. The general says Israel adapted foreign technology used to find oil and gas reserves to come up with a way to locate tunnels.

DANIEL: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: He says the newer tunnels are easier to find because they are far longer and heavily reinforced, showing up better on radar, but not so ther entrances into Israel because they are too close to the surface for radar to locate nor can they be seen because they aren't dug open until the actual attack. General Daniel says as many as 11 tunnel entrances into Israel have been uncovered so far. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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