Photo Credit: David Azagury / U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv
Jason Greenblatt visits at a terror tunnel built by Hamas on the border of Israel, August 30, 2017.

“Israel has 430 tunnels penetrating the Gaza Strip ahead of a surprise attack,” claimed Basel Salahiya, a member of Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip.

Salahiya, 45, who operated behind the military nicknames Abu Imad al-Tiar or Tsahiv al-Romi, revealed in videos posted on social media what he claims to be a series of Hamas’ security failures and suspicions of treason among the top members of Hamas’ military wing.

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According to him, Israel has been preparing for a comprehensive attack on the Gaza Strip for the past six years, essentially since the end of Operation Protective Edge, and has hundreds of tunnels, pits, and networks, through which the attack will take place into the Strip.

In the video posted on YouTube, Salahiya shows the “map of the tunnels” with openings and underground branches and states that these are usually three meters deep.

H says he drew the map of the tunnels by cross-referencing technology acquired in Jordan to locate underground activity with technology operated by his hacker unit.

Salahiya’s unit was shut down a year ago and he was dismissed as its commander.

Using aerial photographs obtained from Hamas drones, Salahiya shows what he says are photographs of pits and dirt deposits, indicative of IDF’s tunneling efforts.

Salahiya also claimed he used Facebook correspondence between IDF soldiers which “testifies” to the presence of tunnels used by the IDF.

He further added that the claims of Israeli residents in the Gaza area that they heard excavation noises “indicate that this is IDF activity.”

Salahiya claims that he has not revealed security secrets since the location of the tunnels is known to Israel and his intention in exposing this information is “to deprive it [IDF] of the element of surprise that will cost the lives of many Gaza residents.”

The senior Hamas official believes that it is possible that Mazen Fuqaha, a senior member of the organization who was eliminated in March 2017, was targeted through one of these tunnels.

Salahyia criticized the Hamas’ military leadership, and names Marwan Issa as one who is aware of Israel’s alleged plans but hides them from the public in Gaza.

He noted that Hamas claims that he is wrong and invents things, but that it is “ignoring the dangerous information,” as he puts it, saying that Issa is unable to deal with the alleged threat and even raises a suspicion that Issa is a traitor.

To substantiate the suspicion against Issa, Salahiya claims that the commander of the military wing himself prevented a number of investigations into security incidents during which Israel infiltrated the Gaza Strip.

Salahiya’s hacker unit was shut down following allegations he made against senior members of the organization and was often accused of being overly imaginative.

Unknown individuals placed an explosive device under his vehicle, apparently to silence him, and yet he insists, “Israel operates tunnels inside the Gaza Strip.”

A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told TPS that Salahiya’s goal is to “hurt the morale of Hamas operatives and the Palestinian public in the Gaza Strip, in light of his removal from the organization.”

He said the military wing was trying to locate him and arrest him, although he may have left the Strip before the videos were released.

However, he admitted that Salahiya is a fairly significant activist in the terror organization.

Salahiya joined Hamas in 1989 and was drafted into Izz al-Din al-Qassam in 1992 and then arrested by an Israeli undercover force.

He was subsequently arrested five times by the Palestinian Authority and in 2006 was sent to training in Syria and acquired extensive knowledge in the field of explosives production used by Hamas.

He claims also participated in the operation to abduct IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and was in contact with Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was assassinated in Dubai.

In a statement issued by Hamas’ military wing to the public in Gaza, it reassures it and says that the information that Salahiya presented is false and inaccurate and that things have been checked and refuted outright.

Hamas has built an extensive network of tunnels that run from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory. The tunnels are used by groups of terrorists to cross under the border to try and carry out attacks, murdering and kidnapping Israeli citizens.

The IDF most recently exposed a Hamas tunnel running into Israel in October 2020.

It was the 20th tunnel exposed by the IDF since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, during which the IDF destroyed some 30 tunnels.

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Baruch reports on Arab affairs for TPS.
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