When I originally heard about the Hamas tunnels during one of the previous conflicts, I imagined tunnels akin to those in the film ‘The Great Escape’, crudely dug by men who then surreptitiously got rid of the earth through holes in their pockets, and big enough only for a few to leopard-crawl through to mount a sneak attack. This is nothing like what we have seen uncovered by Israeli bunker-busting bombs and other testimony.
No, they appear more on the London Underground, or the New York City Subways system or indeed, the Paris Metro after which they have been nicknamed.
They feature full operations rooms, light-gauge railway tracks for moving equipment and weapons systems around, hundreds of miles of cabling for lighting, electricity and communications, blast doors, surveillance systems. Some of the tunnels are even large enough for vehicles.
It is estimated they run for hundreds of miles, linking the cities and town of Gaza. They are between 60 and 100 foot underground, so of course have sophisticated ventilation and air-conditioning systems.
Who built them? Of course the glib answer is “Hamas”. But shouldn’t any curious journalist or commentator unpack this a little? Why be lazy?
Just filling a pothole in a London street causes days of disruption. The building of the London’s Crossrail project to extend the Tube lines, has taken years, throwing up building sites all over the city to access the underground tunnels being bored by heavy earth moving machinery. There’s more machinery to mix concrete and move iron girders to reinforce the tunnels clanking and whirling away all day creating quite a din. The construction of the ‘Gaza Metro’ would have required the same. Did no one notice any of this? Where are the Gaza civilians coming forward to say: “Yes, we saw them building the tunnels!” Where are the UN workers, the Red Cross workers, the staff of innumerable foreign agencies living in Gaza saying: “Yes, we wondered what all the subterranean construction work was about! Now we know!”
What’s more, the engineering, electrical, construction, and logistical skills required for this ambitious enterprise would have been way beyond a normal “militant” recruited to run around with an AK47, so how much “civilian” participation was there in the construction of this tunnel network? Did the Hamas government put the work out to tender for civilian contractors with the necessary skills and equipment? It must have cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Dollars to build. Was this funnelled into the Gaza economy via contracts for labour and supplies, and the creation of jobs both directly involved in the construction of the ‘Metro’ and adjacent industries?
I don’t know the answer, but unlike the BBC, CNN, Sky, et al, at least it has occurred to me to ask the question. If I had their resources, I’d try to find out!
Hamas isn’t a secret SPECTRE-like organisation that worked in the shadows. They are the recognised government of Gaza. It is likely that everyone in any position of authority or responsibility was (and is) loyal to the Party. That includes directors of aid agencies, heads of ministries – especially the oft-quoted ‘Gaza Ministry of Health’ – and indeed the management of the hospitals and schools now used as human shields. None of these people could not have known what Hamas was up to: at best they would have suspected, at worst they would have been directly involved.
They are regularly interviewed by western broadcast and print media. Have they ever been pressed about what they knew then, and what they know now? No, I don’t think so.