Hamas tunnel threat at center of war with Israel

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Hamas tunnel threat at center of war with Israel
A Norwegian member of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force stands by Israeli soldiers keeping position in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on September 11, 2014 during the release by Al-Qaeda-linked fighters of a group of 45 UN Fijian peacekeepers kidnapped by the Islamist rebels two weeks ago in the Syrian side of the strategic plateau. The peacekeepers, who were snatched from Quneitra on the Syrian side of the strategic plateau on August 28, were released unharmed and said to be in 'good condition,' the spokesperson said. AFP PHOTO / JALAA MAREY (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers play music during a break of their duty at Kerem Shalom Kibbutz in the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on September 8, 2014. Since the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants, following fifty days of fighting, most Israeli residents living near the border with the Palestinian enclave returned to their homes with the army on high alert and new security measures to protect them. AFP PHOTO/ MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
GAZA, PALESTINE - 2014/09/02: Face covered militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), holding rifles in Gaza city during a rally to celebrate a week after the Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by Ahmed Hjazy/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Palestinian man kisses a Hamas militant sniper during a parade by Hamas militants in Shejaiya on August 27, 2014. Israel and Palestinians both boasted of victory in the Gaza war but analysts say Hamas received only promises while the conflict aggravated divisions in the Israeli leadership. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2014/08/22: An Israeli soldier shoots a tear gas canister into a crowd of Palestinian protesters. The Islamic Jihad faction organized protests in solidarity with Gaza, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. As ceasefire talks collapsed completely in Cairo earlier this week, and fighting renewed on Wednesday. Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards Southern Israel, some reaching as far as Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, some 80 kilometers away from Gaza. Late Tuesday evening an Israeli missile struck the home of Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif, killing his wife and three-year-old daughter. Deif, according to Hamas reports was not assassinated. On Thursday, three more to military commanders, Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum were also killed in airstrikes. In response, Hamas killed what they believed to be collaborators with Israel in Gaza. 18 suspected of having worked with Israeli army intelligence have been killed so far. Late Friday afternoon, a four-year-old Israeli child from Nihal Oz was killed by mortar fire from Gaza. To date, the death toll from the Gaza war stands at 2090 Palestinians and 67 Israelis. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2014/08/22: On the front lines of protest, as a lone Palestinian protester and two Israeli soldiers face off. The Islamic Jihad faction organized protests in solidarity with Gaza, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. As ceasefire talks collapsed completely in Cairo earlier this week, and fighting renewed on Wednesday. Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards Southern Israel, some reaching as far as Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, some 80 kilometers away from Gaza. Late Tuesday evening an Israeli missile struck the home of Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif, killing his wife and three-year-old daughter. Deif, according to Hamas reports was not assassinated. On Thursday, three more to military commanders, Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum were also killed in airstrikes. In response, Hamas killed what they believed to be collaborators with Israel in Gaza. 18 suspected of having worked with Israeli army intelligence have been killed so far. Late Friday afternoon, a four-year-old Israeli child from Nihal Oz was killed by mortar fire from Gaza. To date, the death toll from the Gaza war stands at 2090 Palestinians and 67 Israelis. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 file photo, Israeli soldiers enter a tunnel discovered near the Israel Gaza border. They've been dubbed 'lower Gaza,'€ compared to the Underground, the Metro or the subway and depicted as a bone-chilling, strategic threat to Israel. Hamas'€™ web of tunnels is taking center stage in the relentless conflict between the militant group and Israel, with Israel'€™s ground offensive placing their destruction as a key objective. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 file photo, an Israeli soldier stands at the exit of a tunnel discovered near the Israel Gaza border. They'€™ve been dubbed '€œlower Gaza,'€ compared to the Underground, the Metro or the subway and depicted as a bone-chilling, strategic threat to Israel. Hamas'€™ web of tunnels is taking center stage in the relentless conflict between the militant group and Israel, with Israel'€™s ground offensive placing their destruction as a key objective. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2014/08/22: An Israeli soldier walks past a Banksy graffitti mural in Bethlehem. The Islamic Jihad faction organized protests in solidarity with Gaza, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. As ceasefire talks collapsed completely in Cairo earlier this week, and fighting renewed on Wednesday. Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards Southern Israel, some reaching as far as Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, some 80 kilometers away from Gaza. Late Tuesday evening an Israeli missile struck the home of Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif, killing his wife and three-year-old daughter. Deif, according to Hamas reports was not assassinated. On Thursday, three more to military commanders, Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum were also killed in airstrikes. In response, Hamas killed what they believed to be collaborators with Israel in Gaza. 18 suspected of having worked with Israeli army intelligence have been killed so far. Late Friday afternoon, a four-year-old Israeli child from Nihal Oz was killed by mortar fire from Gaza. To date, the death toll from the Gaza war stands at 2090 Palestinians and 67 Israelis. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK, PALESTINE - 2014/08/22: An Israeli soldiers gets ready to throw a stun grenade into a group of Palestinian protesters below him. The Islamic Jihad faction organized protests in solidarity with Gaza, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. As ceasefire talks collapsed completely in Cairo earlier this week, and fighting renewed on Wednesday. Hamas launched a barrage of rockets towards Southern Israel, some reaching as far as Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, some 80 kilometers away from Gaza. Late Tuesday evening an Israeli missile struck the home of Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif, killing his wife and three-year-old daughter. Deif, according to Hamas reports was not assassinated. On Thursday, three more to military commanders, Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum were also killed in airstrikes. In response, Hamas killed what they believed to be collaborators with Israel in Gaza. 18 suspected of having worked with Israeli army intelligence have been killed so far. Late Friday afternoon, a four-year-old Israeli child from Nihal Oz was killed by mortar fire from Gaza. To date, the death toll from the Gaza war stands at 2090 Palestinians and 67 Israelis. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 file photo, Israeli soldiers walk through a tunnel discovered near the Israel Gaza border. They've been dubbed '€œlower Gaza,'€ compared to the Underground, the Metro or the subway and depicted as a bone-chilling, strategic threat to Israel. Hamas'€™ web of tunnels is taking center stage in the relentless conflict between the militant group and Israel, with Israel's ground offensive placing their destruction as a key objective. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 file photo, Israeli soldiers enter a tunnel discovered near the Israel Gaza border. They’ve been dubbed “lower Gaza,” compared to the Underground, the Metro or the subway and depicted as a bone-chilling, strategic threat to Israel. Hamas’ web of tunnels is taking center stage in the relentless conflict between the militant group and Israel, with Israel’s ground offensive placing their destruction as a key objective. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)
A Palestinian smuggler lowers himself into a smuggling tunnel on the border between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, May, 1, 2009. The Israeli military says its aircraft struck smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip Friday. It says aircraft went after two tunnels in two separate strikes in response to rocket fire by Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
A Palestinian smuggler lowers himself into a smuggling tunnel on the border with Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. Three Palestinians were killed when a smuggling tunnel running under the Gaza-Egypt border collapsed, said Moiawa Hassanien, a Palestinian health official. Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza since the militant group Hamas seized power there in 2007. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men prepare to lower a cow into an underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men lower a cow into a underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men prepare to lower a cow into a underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men lower a cow into an underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commeration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men lower a cow into an underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commeration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men lower a cow into an underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commeration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP - NOVEMBER 15: Masked Palestinian men lower a cow into an underground chamber as Palestinians continue to smuggle supplies and animals through tunnels between Rafah, southern Gaza Strip and Egypt as the Gaza crossings remain closed on November 15, 2008 in Rafah, Southern Gaza Strip, Gaza. Israel has tightened the blockade in recent weeks as a response to continued rocket fire by Palestinian militants and assertions on both sides that ceasefire agreements have been violated. Muslims are preparing for Eid al-Adha, celebrated at the end of pilgrimage of the Hajj, purchasing cattle to be slaughtered in commeration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
Rafah, : A Palestinian security officer lowers himself into a tunnel leading underground across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, 07 December 2005, in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian security forces sealed the two tunnels that had been used to smuggle in arms from neighboring Egypt, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on Friday, March 21, 2014, that they claim shows a tunnel dug from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that stretches hundreds of meters (yards) inside Israel. The Israeli military says it has discovered another tunnel — the biggest so far — dug from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into Israel and says it was intended for attacks on soldiers and civilians. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida blamed the tunnel's discovery on recent rains that exposed its opening. (AP Photo/Israeli Defense Forces)
The entrance of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the army 'for exposing the Gaza terror tunnel' at a weekly cabinet meeting this morning. AFP PHOTO / DAVID BUIMOVITCH (Photo credit should read DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)
EIN HASHLOSHA - OCTOBER 17: In this handout still from a video provided by the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (R) visits a recently-discovered tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel October 17, 2013 in Ein HaShlosha, Israel. Ambassador Shapiro demonstrated U.S. support for Israel's security and its right to defend itself. 'It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,' Shapiro said. (Photo by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 29: In this handout provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon tours the recently discovered tunnel linking Gaza to Israel while visiting the Southern Command and the Gaza Division October 29, 2013 along the Israeli border with Gaza. Ya'alon reassured Israelis after the discovery of the tunnel that security on the southern border was strong. (Photo by Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 29: In this handout provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon tours the recently discovered tunnel linking Gaza to Israel while visiting the Southern Command and the Gaza Division October 29, 2013 along the Israeli border with Gaza. Ya'alon reassured Israelis after the discovery of the tunnel that security on the southern border was strong. (Photo by Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense via Getty Images)
EIN HASHLOSHA - OCTOBER 17: In this handout still from a video provided by the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (R) visits a recently-discovered tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel October 17, 2013 in Ein HaShlosha, Israel. Ambassador Shapiro demonstrated U.S. support for Israel's security and its right to defend itself. 'It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,' Shapiro said. (Photo by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)
EIN HASHLOSHA - OCTOBER 17: In this handout still from a video provided by the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (L) visits a recently-discovered tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel October 17, 2013 in Ein HaShlosha, Israel. Ambassador Shapiro demonstrated U.S. support for Israel's security and its right to defend itself. 'It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,' Shapiro said. (Photo by Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 29: In this handout provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (C) tours the recently discovered tunnel linking Gaza to Israel while visiting the Southern Command and the Gaza Division October 29, 2013 along the Israeli border with Gaza. Ya'alon reassured Israelis after the discovery of the tunnel that security on the southern border was strong. (Photo by Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 29: In this handout provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon tours the recently discovered tunnel linking Gaza to Israel while visiting the Southern Command and the Gaza Division October 29, 2013 along the Israeli border with Gaza. Ya'alon reassured Israelis after the discovery of the tunnel that security on the southern border was strong. (Photo by Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense via Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier is seen at the entrance of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the army 'for exposing the Gaza terror tunnel' at a weekly cabinet meeting this morning. AFP PHOTO / DAVID BUIMOVITCH (Photo credit should read DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier stands at the entrance of a tunnel allegedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the army 'for exposing the Gaza terror tunnel' at a weekly cabinet meeting this morning. AFP PHOTO / DAVID BUIMOVITCH (Photo credit should read DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)
Smugglers carry food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah. Fast food is just the latest trend for smugglers seeking to turn a buck by bringing in hard-to-get products to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. It's not exactly 'fast' -- taking several hours to arrive, with the Palestinian delivery company behind it charging hefty prices to cover the cost of fuel and transport. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A smuggler carries bags of food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah. Fast food is just the latest trend for smugglers seeking to turn a buck by bringing in hard-to-get products to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. It's not exactly 'fast' -- taking several hours to arrive, with the Palestinian delivery company behind it charging hefty prices to cover the cost of fuel and transport. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A smuggler carries food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah. Fast food is just the latest trend for smugglers seeking to turn a buck by bringing in hard-to-get products to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. It's not exactly 'fast' -- taking several hours to arrive, with the Palestinian delivery company behind it charging hefty prices to cover the cost of fuel and transport. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A smuggler carries food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah. Fast food is just the latest trend for smugglers seeking to turn a buck by bringing in hard-to-get products to the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. It's not exactly 'fast' -- taking several hours to arrive, with the Palestinian delivery company behind it charging hefty prices to cover the cost of fuel and transport. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian men work in a tunnel which links the southern Gaza Strip border town of Rafah with Egypt and which is used to smuggle sacks of cement on July 26, 2010. Israel moved to ease the closures of the Gaza Strip last month and now allows in all purely civilian goods, but the lack of virtually any export capability has hindered economic recovery in the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people. Prior to the easing of the blockade some 40 percent of Gazans were unemployed and 80 percent relied on foreign aid, numbers that are not believed to have significantly declined in recent weeks. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man adjusts a light in a smuggling tunnel which links the southern Gaza Strip border town of Rafah with Egypt and which is used to smuggle sacks of cement on July 26, 2010. Israel moved to ease the closures of the Gaza Strip last month and now allows in all purely civilian goods, but the lack of virtually any export capability has hindered economic recovery in the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people. Prior to the easing of the blockade some 40 percent of Gazans were unemployed and 80 percent relied on foreign aid, numbers that are not believed to have significantly declined in recent weeks. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 file photo, Israeli soldiers walk through a tunnel discovered near the Israel Gaza border. They’ve been dubbed “lower Gaza,” compared to the Underground, the Metro or the subway and depicted as a bone-chilling, strategic threat to Israel. Hamas’ web of tunnels is taking center stage in the relentless conflict between the militant group and Israel, with Israel’s ground offensive placing their destruction as a key objective. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)
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BY TIA GOLDENBERG

JERUSALEM (AP) -- A network of tunnels Palestinian militants have dug from Gaza to Israel - dubbed "lower Gaza" by the Israeli military - is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel.

Gaza's Hamas rulers view them as a military game changer in its conflict with Israel. The Israeli military says the tunnels pose a serious threat and that destroying the sophisticated underground network is a key objective of its invasion of Gaza.

Israel has known about the tunnels for several years, but has been hard-pressed to find an effective way to block them. Now it is counting on its ground war to at least reduce the threat.

"Israel knew there was a problem with the tunnels, but it didn't internalize their significance," said Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general. "At any given moment, Hamas could send dozens of militants through separate tunnels to attack communities in Israel."

Gaza has two sets of tunnels - those reaching Egypt and those reaching Israel.

The underground passages to Egypt are meant to bypass a border blockade on Gaza that was tightened by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. The tunnels provide an economic lifeline and are used to deliver building supplies, fuel, consumer goods and even cattle and cars.

In some of those tunnels, Gaza militants received weapons and cash from their patrons abroad, particularly Iran. Egypt has destroyed virtually all of the tunnels over the past year, driving Hamas - which was taxing the smuggled imports - into a severe financial crisis.

Separately, Hamas significantly expanded its network of tunnels from Gaza to Israel after a major Israeli ground offensive that ended in January 2009.

Several senior Hamas officials have told The Associated Press that the expansion of those tunnels was part of a broader shift in military tactics after 2009, with input from the Hezbollah guerrilla group in Lebanon, which has fought Israel repeatedly.

"There are thousands of resistance fighters working underground and thousands others working above the ground, to prepare for the upcoming battle," Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, said earlier this year. "No one can imagine what the resistance is ready to do to confront the occupiers."

In addition to the tunnels, Hamas also boosted its arsenal of anti-tank rockets, which had proven effective in Hezbollah's battle with Israeli ground troops in Lebanon in 2006, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss military strategy with reporters.

Hamas also moved many of its rocket launching sites and storage sites underground, making it more difficult for Israel to target them. Since the current round of Israel-Hamas fighting began on July 8, Gaza militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets at Israel and repeatedly tried to sneak into Israel through tunnels.

Such attempts have stoked new calls in Israel to destroy the tunnels, something that can only be done by ground forces. This helped rally widespread public support for the Israeli invasion of Gaza, despite the rising number of Palestinian deaths.

More than 800 Palestinians have been killed, three-fourths of them civilians, and most since Israel's ground operation aimed at hitting the tunnels began eight days ago, according to U.N. figures. Thirty-four Israelis, including 32 soldiers, and a Thai worker have been killed.

Israel says Hamas has dug dozens of tunnels, linking them to each other as well as to rocket manufacturing sites, maintenance facilities, launch sites and command and control centers. It says the tunnels are meant to facilitate mass attacks on Israelis as well as kidnappings, a tactic that Hamas has used in the past.

In 2006, Palestinian militants burrowed under the border to an Israeli army base, killed two soldiers and captured a third, Sgt. Gilad Schalit. After being held captive in Gaza for more than five years, he was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Soldiers have uncovered 31 tunnels in the current round of fighting, the military said Thursday.

Palestinian militants trying to sneak into Israel through the tunnels have been found with tranquilizers and handcuffs, an indication that they "intended to abduct Israelis," according to the military.

"Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis. Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.

Israelis countrywide have been granted a front-row seat to the rising threat thanks to footage released by the Israeli military, which has shown heavily armed militants, toting rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, lying low in the weeds as they are spotted by army lookouts.

In some cases they have been forced back into the tunnels and in others they have been killed in shootouts with Israeli forces or airstrikes. While a number of troops have been killed in the altercations, militants have not reached nearby communities.

The visuals have spooked the country and fueled public support for the latest incursion, which is backed by a majority of Israelis.

Still, some Israelis have questioned how Israel, which has minimized casualties and damage from Hamas' rocket threat with its Iron Dome missile defense battery, has been unable to stanch the infiltrations. Beyond the casualties, the incidents have led widespread road closures and forced thousands of residents to lock themselves inside for safety.

Brom, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank, said he expected a greater push in Israel following the war to find a comprehensive remedy to the tunnel threat.

Atai Shelach, a former commander of the military's combat engineering unit, Yahalom, said ground forces could inflict some damage and deter Hamas, but that more is needed for the longer term.

Shelach said Israeli companies are working to find a defense against the tunnels, but have not yet succeeded in developing an adequate solution.

Ideas that have been floated in the past include digging a canal filled with sewage along the border meant to thwart infiltrations, but the task would be expensive and may not suit the sandy soil around Gaza. A variety of technologies could help detect tunnel activity through acoustic or seismographic readings, but none are foolproof.

"We need a game changer like Iron Dome," Shelach said. "It's not a question of money or resources. It just needs to be made a national priority."

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