Hamas ‘Terror Tunnel’ Chief Defected to Israel, Palestinian Sources Say
Several Palestinian news sources have reported that a senior member of the Hamas, with intimate knowledge of the organization’s terror tunnel network has defected to Israel recently.
The report was first published on Tuesday night by Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority – a rival of the Hamas terror organization, which rules the Gaza Strip – and identified the alleged defector as Bassam Mahmoud Baraka from Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.
Baraka is the son of a prominent Gazan Sharia judge affiliated with Hamas. According to Palestinian reports, Baraka served in Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and was intimately involved involved in the tunnel operations.
The Hamas tunnel network infiltrating into Israeli territory was a decisive factor leading to the ground operation in Gaza during the summer of 2014. Israel refers to them as “terror tunnels,” since they are designed to allow Hamas commandos to sneak into Israel and kill or abduct Israelis.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida stated that Baraka’s family in Gaza was notified by the Red Cross that Baraka is held in Israel, but did not provide information on how Baraka ended up in the hands of Israeli authorities.
While the Red Cross refused to confirm the specific case to Tazpit Press Service (TPS), a media officer with the organization did explain the general practice.
“In general, regarding a case of a family asking [the Red Cross] for the whereabouts of a family member they allege was arrested, the Red Cross opens an allegation of arrest file, inquires with the Israeli authorities, and informs the family of the findings,” Sabine Sitruk, a spokeswoman in the Red Cross’s Israel offices, told TPS.
Israeli officials have not commented on the case.
According to Gazan sources cited by Israeli news outlets, on the day Baraka disappeared from Gaza he told his wife’s parents that he was going out to run errands and would return in the evening. He then took his wife and children to the border fence and gave himself up, with his equipment, to Israeli security forces. Reportedly, his belongings included a laptop with maps of Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure.
Earlier this month, The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cleared for publication that it apprehended a member of the Beit Lahiya battalion of the al-Qassam Brigades who revealed the locations of numerous tunnel entrances inside the Gaza Strip.
In April the IDF captured a senior Hamas combatant, Mahmoud Atauna, who told his interrogators many details about the routes of the tunnels in the northern Gaza Strip, Hamas’ digging techniques, locations of private and public buildings from which the tunnels originate, and about the technologies and materials used in the process.
Over the last few months Israel has discovered two Hamas tunnels infiltrating into Israel and has conducted several aerial strikes on targets within the Gaza strip.
Following the discoveries of the tunnels, Israel boasted of a “technological breakthrough” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as an “underground Iron Dome,” referring to Israel’s successful Iron Dome missile defense system that intercepts rockets from Gaza.