October 28, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas

October 28, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas

Latest Developments

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on October 26 that Hamas smuggled weapons and ammunition through tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border in the runup to its October 7 attack. The terrorists reportedly carried the materiel under the Philadelphia Route, a narrow land corridor that separates Egypt from the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s smuggling operation took place as the Israeli Air Force continued to strike Iranian arms shipments in Syria and Lebanon. Now, fears swirl that the terrorists could flee to Egypt through the same underground network.

Expert Analysis

“The United States has long turned a blind eye to Iranian smuggling through Egypt to arm, equip, and train Hamas. Like everything post-October 7, we need a reset on how we view the Egyptian-Gaza border and how we will work with the Egyptians to shut down illicit smuggling routes.” —Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Hamas smuggling tunnels below the Philadelphia route raise two challenges for Israel, as they enable the illicit transit of weaponry into Gaza and may facilitate the escape of Hamas leaders, thus circumventing Israeli apprehension or attacks.” —Joe Truzman , Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

“Israel has made it clear that one of the primary goals of the war is to demilitarize Gaza. If Egypt wants to see an end to the war, it should neutralize the tunnels that have provided a critical artery for supplying weapons to Iranian-backed terror organizations in Gaza. Cairo must also ensure that Hamas leaders don’t use those tunnels as an escape hatch to avoid the consequences of their atrocities.” —Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Hamas’s Tunnel Network

Hamas leverages a network of tunnels to transport military assets, store supplies, and train personnel in the hopes of avoiding IDF detection. The underground labyrinth spans hundreds of kilometers and winds through the Gaza Strip and across the borders with Egypt and Israel. A hostage freed by Hamas on October 23 described the network under Gaza as “a spider’s web.”

According to IDF estimates, each tunnel costs $3 million to dig. The tunnels are highly sophisticated, complete with telephone lines and electricity.

During the May 2021 Gaza war, the IDF reportedly destroyed over 62 miles of Hamas’s underground network. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, claimed after the war that the group possessed over 500 kilometers of tunnels and that, at best, Israel had “only destroyed 20 percent of the tunnels.”

Cross-Border Smuggling

In addition to facilitating terrorist activity, the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have, for years, facilitated illicit commerce. Criminals leverage the subterranean route to transport drugs and everyday goods into the Gaza Strip.

Under former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Cairo tacitly allowed Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other bad actors to exploit the tunnel system. Cairo cracked down on the underground network after current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over in 2013.

Israel Declares Global War on Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Points to Hamas’s Hoarding of Gaza Fuel,” FDD Flash Brief

Palestinian Terrorist Groups Continue to Build Tunnels Under UNRWA Schools,” FDD Flash Brief


Arab Politics Egypt Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics