Hamas raiding Gaza woodworkers to rebuild tunnels

Facing a shortage of building supplies amid increased Israeli scrutiny, group resorts to confiscation of materials as it races to replace network

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

Times of Israel (Sep 1) — Israeli officials accused Hamas on Tuesday of confiscating building materials sent into the Gaza Strip and using them to rebuild its attack tunnel infrastructure.

Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the territories, accused the group of misappropriating supplies – particularly wood – for its terror activities.

“Members of Hamas took over warehouses of construction materials and confiscated (them) for the benefit of the group’s underground infrastructure,” Mordechai said in a statement.

In an unorthodox operation Monday night, members of Hamas’s military wing raided a large number of carpentry shops and woodworking factories throughout the Gaza Strip and confiscated enormous quantities of lumber, apparently to shore up tunnel building efforts, Palestinian sources said.

Hamas is suffering from a shortage of basic tunnel-building materials such as wood, which is used to line the inside of its tunnels. The seizure was apparently intended to replenish the organization’s supply.

The operation was not this first of its kind. Hamas has resorted to such action before, due to the increased Israeli scrutiny on wood and other building materials transferred into Gaza as the Palestinian enclave tries to rebuild following the devastation caused by 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

In recent months Hamas operatives have began taking various steps to replenish tunnel building materials. In addition to the raids, the group has also cut down dozens of trees to manufacture planks. These are increasingly used to reinforce the insides of tunnels in the place of the concrete used before Protective Edge.

The shortages faced by Hamas in materials and machinery may slow its progress in the reconstruction of its vast tunnel network, which serves for both attack and defensive purposes. This is despite its massive investment in the enterprise, with hundreds of men working 24 hours a day to rebuild the infrastructure, most of which was destroyed by Israel in 2014.

Mordechai noted that Israel has allowed 1.7 million tons of construction material into Gaza since the end of last year’s summer conflict. The misuse of the resources by Hamas, he said, did not only increase the terrorist threat from Gaza but was also delaying any efforts to rebuild the territory.

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