Israelis near Gaza border concerned about stepped-up tunnel construction

Palestinian men look at what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in the area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and Hamas went into effect. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A former tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel after a 72-hour truce agreed upon by Israel and Hamas went into effect. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

(JTA) — Israelis living next to the Gaza border are reporting that they can literally feel the effect of Palestinians digging tunnels nearby.

Gadi Yarkoni, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said Thursday that many residents of Moshav Pri Gan are complaining that they have heard increased underground digging in the past few weeks and that it even causes the floors of their homes to shake, the Times of Israel reported.

Yarkoni expressed disappointment that the Israel Defense Forces still has not built protective barriers to block cross-border tunnels, despite promises to do so after Operation Protective Edge, its summer 2014 war in Gaza. No money has been allocated for the $700 million project, the Times of Israel said, citing a Haaretz report.

Other evidence of tunnel digging has been surfacing in recent weeks.

Eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas disappeared Wednesday when rain and flooding caused an underground tunnel near Jabaliya to collapse. A tunnel in central Gaza collapsed on Saturday, killing a 30-year-old man, AFP reported, citing Hamas officials. In December, 14 Palestinians were trapped for hours in another tunnel, near the Gaza-Egypt border, after it flooded.

Hamas’ vast network of tunnels, many leading into Israel, was a major issue during the 2014 war. During its operation, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels, which were used to smuggle weapons, as well as stage terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Israel.

According to Haaretz, the IDF believes Hamas, which governs Gaza, is building new tunnels leading into Israel and is rebuilding its arsenal of rockets. Haaretz said it “is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge.”

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