FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2024
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NYT: HOW HAMAS’S TUNNEL NETWORK HARMS CIVILIANS IN GAZA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Hamas’s expansive tunnel network harms the safety and wellbeing of civilians in Gaza, Bret Stephens argues in a recent New York Times column. Stephens cites New York Times reporting from earlier this month when he writes, “Hamas’s tunnels measure between 350 and 450 miles in a territory that’s just 25 miles long.” As the column explains, Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by building tunnels underneath densely populated areas, including hospitals, and has withheld resources from the civilian population – instead allocating significant funding and labor toward tunnel construction.
Hamas leaders have said of civilians in Gaza, “We are called a nation of martyrs, and we are proud to sacrifice martyrs.”
- According to a report this month in The New York Times, Israeli defense officials now estimate that Hamas’s tunnels measure between 350 and 450 miles in a territory that’s just 25 miles long. (By comparison, the London Underground is only 249 miles long.) Some of Gaza’s tunnels are wide enough for cars; some are more than 150 feet deep; some serve as munitions depots; others are comfortably kitted out as command bunkers.
- Israeli officials also estimate that there are 5,700 separate entrances to the tunnels — many of them with access from civilian houses and some directly beneath Gaza City’s main hospital, which U.S. intelligence agencies say was also used as a Hamas command center. Within that maze, scores of Israeli hostages, including a year-old infant, are being held without fresh air, sunlight, adequate medicine or food, or visits from the Red Cross.
- That’s not the only outrage. How much did it cost to build these tunnels? How much concrete, steel and electricity did it divert from civilian needs? How many millions of hours of labor were given to the effort? What was the cost of building up its stockpile of thousands of rockets, which continue to be fired at Israel? How many ordinary Gazans had to be conscripted into the effort of miserably shoveling dirt deep underground — and how many perished in the effort?
- . . The Wall Street Journal, citing Israeli military officials, reported that the cost of building 32 tunnels (a small fraction of what has since been uncovered) came to around $90 million. “Some tunnel-building materials also came from aid earmarked for development projects by international aid agencies in Gaza or were purchased on the open market when Israel allowed some imports into Gaza starting in 2010,” The Journal added.
- The tunnels also help explain the level of destruction that Israel has wreaked on Gaza since the war began. If Hamas hides the bulk of its fighters and munitions in the tunnels, Israel somehow has to find, search and destroy those tunnels. If Hamas builds the entrances to those tunnels inside private homes, schools or hospitals, those places all become military targets. And if there are nearly 6,000 such entrances, the destruction is all but guaranteed to be epochal — just as it was in Mosul when the United States assisted Iraq in destroying ISIS (which was much less deeply entrenched there than Hamas is in Gaza) over nine months in 2016 and 2017.
- Hamas could have averted this tragedy if it had turned Gaza into an enclave for peace rather than terror. It could have averted it if it had not started four previous rounds of war against Israel. It could have averted it if it had honored the cease-fire that held on Oct. 6. It could have lessened the blow against Gazans by fighting in the open, not behind civilians. It could have eased it by releasing all of its hostages.