(NationalUSNews.com) — The labyrinth of tunnels beneath Gaza, which have been dubbed by the IDF as the “Gaza metro,” are used by Hamas to smuggle and store weapons and evade detection, complicating any fighting Israeli troops may face in a potential ground invasion of the region, Axios reported.
Further compounding the problems is that at least some of the nearly 200 Israelis taken hostage on October 7 are being held within the tunnels, according to a spokesman for Hamas.
After both Egypt and Israel blockaded Gaza after Hamas took over in 2007, the tunnels became all the more vital to the terror group. For years, Hamas has used the tunnels to smuggle contraband, store supplies and weapons, assemble and store its arsenal of rockets and launch platforms, and barrack its fighters out of view of Israel’s intelligence services.
While it is impossible to know how extensive the subterranean network of tunnels is, experts suggest that the tunnels have grown in sophistication and scale over the last two decades, with some equipped with rail tracks, electricity, and lighting. The tunnels likely span large segments of the Gaza Strip and, in some places, could run over 100 feet beneath the surface.
In 2021, Yahya Sinwa, the leader of Hamas in Gaza and the suspected mastermind of the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, claimed that the tunnel system is over 300 miles long.
Gaza residents first began using tunnels in Gaza in the early 1980s after the city of Rafah was divided between Egypt and Israel as part of the 1979 peace treaty. With only one border point from which to cross the new reinforced border, residents in Rafah began constructing tunnels to allow separated families to smuggle goods and communicate.
The use of the tunnels by Palestinian terrorists was first discovered during the first Intifada in 1987.
The IDF has attempted to destroy the tunnels using airstrikes, including dropping “bunker buster” bombs.
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