Hamas has accelerated its tunnel-building operations near the Gaza border towards Israeli towns and villages, Israeli military officials said according to Walla news.
Less than two years after Israel delivered Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure a serious blow during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 Hamas’s fighters have stepped up the pace of their excavations.
Israel believes Hamas wanted to use the tunnels burrowed into Israeli territory to stage a terrorist attack against an Israeli border community near Gaza, perhaps even taking over a whole kibbutz or town.
Military officials said however that Hamas had suspended digging operations beyond the border fence, fearing Israeli technology meant to detect such activity, according to the report. Earlier this year, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Israel was deploying a state-of-the art tunnel detection system along the Gaza border.
Hamas has also stepped up its domestic rocket manufacturing, the officials said, despite the Israeli naval and air blockade and Egyptian operations to destroy the smuggling tunnel network between the Sinai peninsula and Rafah, on the Gazan border. Hamas and other militant groups possess rockets with ranges that can reach nearly all Israeli cities.
According to Israeli news website 0404, Hamas test-fired three rockets on Wednesday over the Mediterranean Sea.
Sources in the group told Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that one of its cells, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, was organizing suicide attacks “deep in Israel,” according to Israel Radio also on Wednesday. Israeli intelligence uncovered the cell after a member of the group apparently tried to solicit fake documents from a Palestinian Authority employee.
In addition to the perpetual conflict with Israel, Hamas faces challenges domestically and abroad. A Hamas leader was reportedly recently expelled this month from Turkey, one of the group’s main backers, after the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Jerusalem and Ankara were working to resume full relations. Reflecting vagueness over the details of the Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, some Hamas officials have rejected rumors that Turkey was seeking unrestricted access to and control of the Gaza Strip while other have expressed concern that Turkey would give up its preconditions for easing the Israeli blockade on Gaza to save face.
Hamas also faces domestic challenges by other radical groups, including some terrorist cells affiliated with ISIS. Some of these terrorist outfits possess rockets and they have fired them at Israel, often prompting an Israeli military response directed at Hamas, which Israel holds responsible for all rocket fire emanating from Gazan territory.