IDF fears fresh conflict with Hamas is fast approaching

The Gaza government is under huge financial pressure - and it may be about to see its terror tunnels neutralised


Concern over rising tension in Gaza is leading the Israeli security establishment to prepare for a possible outbreak of violence with Hamas this summer.

The Strip’s financial situation and electricity supply have deteriorated in recent weeks and the discovery of a new tunnel beneath two United Nations schools has prompted fears that Hamas will use its underground network to launch a surprise attack.The crisis has been precipitated largely by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, whose President, Mahmoud Abbas, has been financially squeezing the Hamas government.

Ten years after his Fatah representatives were ousted in a bloody coup in Gaza, Mr Abbas has decided to drastically cut the salaries of PA employees in Gaza, payments to former prisoners and funds for civilian infrastructure. The immediate effect has been a reduction in the hours of electricity supplied to Gazan civilians.

Two thirds of electricity in Gaza is supplied by Israel, while the rest is produced by the power station there, fuelled by diesel coming through Israeli crossings. The PA has stopped paying duty on the fuel and is now planning to stop paying for the Israeli electricity as well. This will cut supplies to civilians, who already only have electricity for four hours a day. Israel has announced that it will not continue to supply electricity without payment.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unwra), which works with Palestinian refugees, denounced Hamas on Friday after its employees discovered a Hamas tunnel in Gaza beneath two of its schools. “It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” the organisation said in a statement.

The Israeli Defence Ministry is in the final stages of completing an underground network of sensors which detect cross-border tunnelling. Senior officers have voiced the fear that Hamas will use the opportunity to target Israeli workers near the border fence. Israeli intelligence has been warning for two years now that Hamas military commanders will be loath to lose this strategic asset. The terror organisation has invested dwindling resources in the tunnels, and dozens of Palestinians have died during their construction.

Hamas may feel that rather than see the tunnels lose their effectiveness, they have to use them and attack first. Most of the IDF’s major exercises in recent months have been based on a “Gaza scenario” in which the army needs to respond rapidly to a Hamas tunnel attack.



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