A window into Gaza's elaborate tunnel complex

Published February 15th, 2016 - 20:37 GMT

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In the past few weeks, five tunnel collapses in the Gaza Strip have killed 11 Hamas fighters. Hamas leaders are boasting that the group is working overtime on efforts to penetrate the Israeli border, apparently to stage a kidnapping or a mass-casualty attack on Israel.  

Yet Hamas’s vast underground transport network is used for more than just attacking Israel. Here are a few key facts about the territory's subterranean world. 

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There are said to be hundreds--possibly thousands--of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. The exact number isn’t known, but some statistics give an inkling of how large the network is. For example, in March 2014, Egypt claimed to have destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels beneath its short border with Gaza.
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Image 1 of 9:  1 / 9There are said to be hundreds--possibly thousands--of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. The exact number isn’t known, but some statistics give an inkling of how large the network is. For example, in March 2014, Egypt claimed to have destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels beneath its short border with Gaza.

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Gaza’s tunnels have been around for 30 years. Residents use them to import everything from concrete and cars to KFC.
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Image 2 of 9:  2 / 9Gaza’s tunnels have been around for 30 years. Residents use them to import everything from concrete and cars to KFC.

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The tunnels are also used to import livestock from Egypt.
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Image 3 of 9:  3 / 9The tunnels are also used to import livestock from Egypt.

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Some of Gaza's tunnels are 100 feet underground, and some are equipped with secret hideouts where fighters can live for a week or longer.
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Image 4 of 9:  4 / 9Some of Gaza's tunnels are 100 feet underground, and some are equipped with secret hideouts where fighters can live for a week or longer.

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The tunnels have communications equipment for easy coordination. Some tunnels are reportedly air-conditioned and even have cell phone reception.
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Image 5 of 9:  5 / 9The tunnels have communications equipment for easy coordination. Some tunnels are reportedly air-conditioned and even have cell phone reception.

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Gaza residents use the tunnels to get medical treatment in Egypt, or sometimes even just to go out for a night on the town.
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Image 6 of 9:  6 / 9Gaza residents use the tunnels to get medical treatment in Egypt, or sometimes even just to go out for a night on the town.

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Hamas created an entire government agency devoted specifically to regulating commerce from smuggling operations, which are said to earn Hamas $700 million in revenue during a good year.
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Image 7 of 9:  7 / 9Hamas created an entire government agency devoted specifically to regulating commerce from smuggling operations, which are said to earn Hamas $700 million in revenue during a good year.

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Of course, the tunnels also have military purposes. They protect weapons caches and high-profile commanders from Israeli airstrikes. They also allow Hamas to conduct attacks and kidnappings in Israel: in summer 2014, Hamas used the tunnels to stage three separate attacks on Israeli soldiers, killing 11.
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Image 8 of 9:  8 / 9Of course, the tunnels also have military purposes. They protect weapons caches and high-profile commanders from Israeli airstrikes. They also allow Hamas to conduct attacks and kidnappings in Israel: in summer 2014, Hamas used the tunnels to stage three separate attacks on Israeli soldiers, killing 11.

Enlarge
Though Israel has spent over $250 million since 2004 trying to detect and destroy the cross-border tunnels, the supposedly high-tech nation still has not developed a means with which to do so.
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Image 9 of 9:  9 / 9Though Israel has spent over $250 million since 2004 trying to detect and destroy the cross-border tunnels, the supposedly high-tech nation still has not developed a means with which to do so.

Enlarge

1

There are said to be hundreds--possibly thousands--of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. The exact number isn’t known, but some statistics give an inkling of how large the network is. For example, in March 2014, Egypt claimed to have destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels beneath its short border with Gaza.

Image 1 of 9There are said to be hundreds--possibly thousands--of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. The exact number isn’t known, but some statistics give an inkling of how large the network is. For example, in March 2014, Egypt claimed to have destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels beneath its short border with Gaza.

2

Gaza’s tunnels have been around for 30 years. Residents use them to import everything from concrete and cars to KFC.

Image 2 of 9Gaza’s tunnels have been around for 30 years. Residents use them to import everything from concrete and cars to KFC.

3

The tunnels are also used to import livestock from Egypt.

Image 3 of 9The tunnels are also used to import livestock from Egypt.

4

Some of Gaza's tunnels are 100 feet underground, and some are equipped with secret hideouts where fighters can live for a week or longer.

Image 4 of 9Some of Gaza's tunnels are 100 feet underground, and some are equipped with secret hideouts where fighters can live for a week or longer.

5

The tunnels have communications equipment for easy coordination. Some tunnels are reportedly air-conditioned and even have cell phone reception.

Image 5 of 9The tunnels have communications equipment for easy coordination. Some tunnels are reportedly air-conditioned and even have cell phone reception.

6

Gaza residents use the tunnels to get medical treatment in Egypt, or sometimes even just to go out for a night on the town.

Image 6 of 9Gaza residents use the tunnels to get medical treatment in Egypt, or sometimes even just to go out for a night on the town.

7

Hamas created an entire government agency devoted specifically to regulating commerce from smuggling operations, which are said to earn Hamas $700 million in revenue during a good year.

Image 7 of 9Hamas created an entire government agency devoted specifically to regulating commerce from smuggling operations, which are said to earn Hamas $700 million in revenue during a good year.

8

Of course, the tunnels also have military purposes. They protect weapons caches and high-profile commanders from Israeli airstrikes. They also allow Hamas to conduct attacks and kidnappings in Israel: in summer 2014, Hamas used the tunnels to stage three separate attacks on Israeli soldiers, killing 11.

Image 8 of 9Of course, the tunnels also have military purposes. They protect weapons caches and high-profile commanders from Israeli airstrikes. They also allow Hamas to conduct attacks and kidnappings in Israel: in summer 2014, Hamas used the tunnels to stage three separate attacks on Israeli soldiers, killing 11.

9

Though Israel has spent over $250 million since 2004 trying to detect and destroy the cross-border tunnels, the supposedly high-tech nation still has not developed a means with which to do so.

Image 9 of 9Though Israel has spent over $250 million since 2004 trying to detect and destroy the cross-border tunnels, the supposedly high-tech nation still has not developed a means with which to do so.

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