Fact Check: Old images of tunnels falsely linked to recent Isreal-Hamas conflict in Gaza

For many years, Palestinians have dug tunnels under Gaza, initially to move people and goods between Gaza and Egypt secretly.
(Source: Screenshot of social media post)
(Source: Screenshot of social media post)

Amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, many social media users are sharing a photo collage purportedly showing a tunnel built by Hamas in Gaza. The caption associated with this collage claims that there are 1300 tunnels built beneath 80 meters that span around 500 km. Moreover, they also claim that these tunnels are built in eight layers, each made to serve a different purpose.

A social media user shared a post with a caption that reads, “CHAMAS TUNNEL SYSTEM EXPOSED - 1300 TUNNELS | SPANNING 500km | 80 METERS UNDERGROUND. Recent Situational Reports exchanged between the U.S. and Israel, obtained by our team, have provided unprecedented insights into the tunnel system beneath Gaza. The IDF estimates there are 1,300 tunnels spanning 500 km beneath Gaza. The tunnel system has multiple levels. Level One: Entry and launch locations inside buildings for personnel and rocket launches. Level Two: Reinforced passageways for rocket transport and maneuvering. Level Three: Houses the Oxygen Generation and Air Movement system generator. Level Four: Meeting and sleeping rooms for Hamas fighters. Level Five: Main Gaza Metro connecting city blocks/sections. Level Six: Storage for weapons, ammunition, and fuel, with doors always closed for safety. Level Seven: Additional storage and sleeping rooms. Level Eight: Command and Control Center for Hamas, connected via a hard landline, with a quick escape tunnel to the Gaza Metro for senior leaders' evacuation. This tunnel system allows for quick movements, such as hiding after launching a rocket. The size of the network indicates many years of building at an extremely high cost.”

(Source: Screenshot of social media post)
(Source: Screenshot of social media post)

Similar posts can be seen here and here.

Fact check

SouthCheck found the claim to be misleading.

On doing a Google Reverse Image Search of each image, we found these images were old.

Image 1:

This image was published by CNN on January 14, 2018. The image associated with the image reads, :Israel says it destroyed Hamas tunnel.”

According to the report published in The Independent, the tunnel was built around the Kerem Shalom border, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, which was destroyed, as it was suspected to be the main operative of Hamas. Moreover, these tunnels are  

gas and fuel pipelines, along with an army position. 

Image 2:

We found this image was published by BBC Hindi on October 14, 2013. The report suggested that this tunnel was used by Hamas for attacking Israel. However, Hamas said that Israel used these tunnel as an excuse to prohibit import of constuction materials to Gaza. 

The image was also published by The Jerusalem Post on July 22, 2014. 

Image 3:

We found the same image was published by i24 on November 30, 2016. The report associated with the image said that following the collapse of a tunnel on the border with Egypt, many crews in the Gaza Strip have been looking for four missing people for days.

However, The Jerusalem Post shared the same image on March 21, 2011, with a caption that reads, “Gaza smuggling tunnel 311.”

Image 4:

We found the same image was published by AFP on February 24, 2015, with a caption that reads, “A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel at a graduation ceremony for a Hamas-run training camp on January 29, 2015 in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

Image 5:

The above image was published by the website AJC on November 6, 2017. 

Image 6:

We found that this image was published by The New York Times on March 21, 2014, with a caption that reads, “The Israeli military released an image of a tunnel and an offshoot from Gaza to Israel that it said could have been used to stage attacks.Credit...Israeli Defense Forces European Pressphoto Agency.”

VOA also published the same image on March 21, 2014. The report quoted the spokesman of the Israeli army, Peter Lerner, who claimed that the army discovered an enormous "terror tunnel" that extends 400 metres into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. 

What do we know about these tunnels?

According to a report by USA Today, for many years, Palestinians have dug tunnels under Gaza, initially to move people and goods between Gaza and Egypt secretly. Israel and Egypt closely monitor their borders, creating a blockade around Gaza. Over time, three types of tunnels developed: those leading to Egypt, some crossing into Israel, and others weaving under Gaza for various purposes like command posts, storage, and launching points for mortars or rockets.

It is not the first time that the claim of tunnels are viral. Recently, a video was viral claiming that their was a tunnel inside Al-Shifa hospital and it was due to this that Israel attacked the hospital.  

However, a recent report by AlJazeera said that the Israeli claim of tunnels inside the hospital was fake. The report suggested that Sanad's inquiry reveals that the structure is merely an access hatch for a water reservoir essential for the hospital's operations. This reservoir fills therapeutic pools for amputees, water the hospital grounds, and serve as a backup water source in emergencies. Sanad conducted a thorough analysis of satellite footage and construction archives and interviewed one of the original engineers involved in building the hospital, which was funded by Qatar and became operational in 2019. Unfortunately, like many hospitals in the besieged Gaza Strip, it has suffered damage from Israel's persistent aerial bombardment targeting medical facilities.

Hence, we can ascertain that all the images shared were old and had no connection with the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict.

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