Residents in Gaza Periphery Have Mixed Reactions to Tunnel-Digging Reports

Communities near Gaza

hamas tunnel

A Hamas operative, photographed in October, works in a smuggling tunnel in Rafah that was flooded with seawater by the Egyptian army. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

While some residents of the south are alarmed by reports of Hamas tunnel digging, most do not seem to be terribly frightened and trust the IDF to protect them. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted last Sunday at the possibility of striking terror tunnels reportedly being dug into Israel’s south just a year and a half after Operation Protective Edge and causing a certain amount of fear among Gaza periphery residents. “We will act very forcefully against Hamas in the event that we attack the tunnels in the Gaza Strip and with much more force than in Operation Protective Edge,” he warned.

The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday that Hamas had confirmed and then denied that they have again dug tunnels that reach into Israel, while Ynet News reported in January that the IDF was searching the Gaza border following reports of “nightly banging and clattering coming from underground.”

Moreover, reports have surfaced over the last two weeks of Hamas terrorists dying in the process of digging.

Spokesmen for several communities in southern Israel, however,  say  that residents are less alarmed than might be expected, despite the rumors circulating in the media.

Daniel Tragerman

Daniel Tragerman, 4, who lived in Kibbutz Hahal Oz, was killed in the summer of 2014 by a Hamas rocket from Gaza. (Flash 90)

Yoram Ziva, former manager of Kibbutz Nahal Oz where four-year-old Daniel Tragerman was killed in 2014 by a Hamas rocket, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that despite the rumors and the fact that the kibbutz is located next to Gaza’s northeastern border, few members of the kibbutz believe that tunnels are being dug under or near their homes. He acknowledged that concern may exist in communities further south, but said that he felt that fears should not be taken out of proportion.

“The fact that they are talking about it a year and a half after the last operation is very worrying. But I don’t think the media needs to talk about it as they are. Also, my friends at Nahal Oz and I have not heard anybody say that they can hear digging,” Ziva said.

Kibbutz Nirim spokesman Arnon Avni told TPS, however, that there are a few people who claim that they have heard the sounds of digging at his kibbutz, located close to Gaza’s southeastern border.

“Just because the media talks about it doesn’t change anything. There are a few people who are scared, but nothing that the media says accomplishes anything. The person who is scared will be scared anyway, and the person who isn’t scared won’t be scared,” Avni said.

He also cited Operation Protective Edge as a reason to calm those alarmed by reports of the sounds of digging nearby.

Near Gaza border

Kibbutz Nirim in the northwestern Negev, near the Gaza border. (Atara Beck)

“There were people in the media who said they heard digging and no one believed them. Then they found tunnels during the war. People who hear that think they were talking about the same tunnel, when in reality, the tunnel they found was too far away for it to be the same.”

Avni admitted, though, that there are those who are afraid. “Obviously, when we hear that there are tunnels, some of us get scared, and justifiably so. Put yourself in the place of people who live two kilometers from the border [and] who know that a few tunnels were discovered in their area. So yes, some people are very scared, especially if they have children,” he said.

He expressed his faith in the IDF soldiers who are searching for indications of tunnels and digging activity and said that while nothing has yet been discovered, this does not alleviate the fears of some at the kibbutz.

“We trust the IDF which is now doing intensive work searching for tunnels near the fence. They dug for a whole week in places where there were indications of the potential for the existence of tunnels. They dug outside the kibbutz and didn’t find anything. But the problem is no one can say they don’t exist. I know that there are tunnels, but I don’t know if they are near us.”

By: Alexander J. Apfel, TPS

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Source: United with Israel