Tactical

What we know about the Hamas tunnels

Reportedly, the Hamas tunnels run from beneath the Gaza Strip into Israel and even Egypt. They are said to be as deep as 165 feet below.
A soldier tours Hamas tunnels circa 2014
A soldier tours Hamas tunnels circa 2014

Ever since the recent Israeli attack, there have been grumblings about what’s rumor vs. what is real. From funding issues to firepower, to the size of those in question, the rest of the world has been wondering just what is true about the terrorist group, Hamas. And in one of the most terrifying, yet intriguing questions of all comes with underground Hamas tunnels. Drug tunnels, attack tunnels, smuggling tunnels, Terror Tunnels, call them what you will – there are many sources who claim the Palestinian group has a series of access points beneath the Earth’s surface.

But is it true? Or just a big rumor? According to Israeli forces, including those who have toured them personally, it’s 100% true. What’s more, there aren’t just a few tunnels, but a web of intricate tunnels that lead multiple directions and span a vast amount of ground.

How deep are Hamas tunnels?

Reportedly, the tunnels run from beneath the Gaza Strip into Israel and even Egypt. They are said to be as deep as 165 feet, leaving plenty of space for walking upright. As soldiers breach the surface, however, they must resort to crouching or crawling with less available height space.

A map showing known layouts of Hamas tunnels.

Known as the Gaza Metro, the tunnels have lights powered by electricity, and the walls are reinforced by concrete. What’s even more impressive is that the tunnels were most likely made without large machinery. Gaza is a small location, and doesn’t own extensive equipment; it’s highly unlikely that countries on the other side would have commissioned the digging, either. 

In total, Hamas has claimed more than 300 miles of tunnels, making it roughly half the size of New York City’s tunnel system. Remember, that the Gaza Strip is only 140.9 square miles. Even Israeli professors have been quoted on the tunnel system, stating that it is both expansive and intricate. The underground tunnels have been in place since 2007 when Hamas took control of the territory. They have used the position to launch several attacks. 

Critics have said the tunnels’ expenses were better spent on bomb shelters or resources for Gaza citizens. Further, Israel alleges that the concrete used to enforce the tunnels was intended for humanitarian projects. However, this is just one more issue on which the two sides disagree. 

A man lowers himself into a Hamas tunnel circa 2014.

In any case, both Hamas and Israel agree that the tunnels exist. The former has yet to release why they made such an intricate system, though it’s likely a combination of reasons, including ease of travel, hostage housing (including the ability to keep them hidden), the planning of surprise attacks, weapon storage, and more.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have destroyed several branches, including at least seven paths into Israel. The Egyptian military has also worked to destroy tunnels, including flooding them with seawater. However, surface access points are often small and difficult to spot, making the task of accessing them even more difficult.