By the end of Operation Protective Edge in August 2014, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) claimed to have discovered and destroyed more than 30 tunnels spanning from beneath Gaza into Israeli territory. Hamas officials have praised these tunnels as an innovative approach to fighting an asymmetric war with a far more conventionally powerful Israel. The purpose of this case study is to examine the complexity of Hamas’ vast tunneling network by assessing the motivations behind the group’s decision to construct the network, to identify the factors that enabled Hamas to engage in such a complex engineering task, and to assess the level of effectiveness of the tunnel network both strategically and tactically against the IDF.
Rebellious non-state actors of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula have been arming themselves through smuggling networks operating in north-east Africa and the Middle East. They feature complex, dynamic, open systems which include many components of various organisational and national identities, and which are driven by various motives, united in order to accomplish the goal of arms smuggling. Previously, this system was dominated by the supply of Iranian large and high-quality weapon systems, mainly rockets, to the Palestinian Hamas, enabling them to build up military force that has sustained long-standing conflict against the stronger Israel. The Arab turmoil initiated dramatic changes in the arming system: Iran stopped, at least temporarily, the channelling of weapons to the Hamas due to its support of the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime. Egypt blocked many of Hamas’s smuggling tunnels, intensifying Hamas’s strategic isolation. Following the removal of Gaddafi and lack of government, Libya became a major arms source, serving mainly regional radical Islamic groups. Salafist jihadist groups in Sinai revolted against the Egyptian government, using huge local stockpiles of weapons and operational cooperation with Palestinian Islamists. This article argues that to survive, rebellious non-state actors must exploit arming opportunities in the physical, social and political environment, whereas securing shared borders is vital for defeating rebellious non-state actors. The arming of non-state actors should be analysed broadly, considering the needs of the civilian population among whom the militants are operating.