It was a warm night in Jabaliya, northeast of Gaza City. Abu Zein and his wife were fast asleep when what the couple first thought was an earthquake shook their bed so hard, its legs buckled.
They immediately jumped up and ran out of the home they had only recently moved into after getting married. But outside was quiet. No one was stirring, no damage was visible, the ground stayed still.
The only movement came from the shadows where a couple of fighters with the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, emerged to ask the couple what had happened.
When Abu Zein — who did not want to give his real name for this article out of concern for his safety — told them, the fighters promised to repair any damage in the couple’s house. The next day, a man turned up with tools to repair the damage to the floor and money as compensation for the damaged furniture.
Land of layers
Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza have long used underground tunnels as an integral part of their military tactics. In this, they have taken a lesson from history. The Vietnamese dug an extensive network of tunnels in their battle against US troops, a network with which the American military never got to grips. Hizballah also went underground to resist the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and during Israel’s war on the country in 2006.
For Palestinian groups — especially the Qassam Brigades — the tunnels serve a multitude of purposes, from smuggling to infiltration to shelter. They are the only protection from Israel’s air power and prying eyes in the sky. They have also been used offensively, most notably in a 2004 attack on an Israeli military observation point in Rafah that saw five Israeli soldiers killed and in the 2006 capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. more