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Hamas, the terrorist organisation in control of the Gaza strip, keeps digging tunnels into Israeli territory. Palestinian residents of the strip, however, are increasingly fearful that construction in residential areas will put their lives at risk if and when the next war erupts, The New York Times reports.

Residents on both sides of the border describe sounds of digging in the small hours of the night, and report their fears of the possible future confrontations. Those living in areas bordering Israel express their fears that the tunnels, and consequently their neighbourhoods, will become a target for Israeli airstrikes.

One woman, who used the pseudonym Umm Nidal to protect her identity from Hamas operatives, has been living in a shelter since her house was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. She believes there is a tunnel entry point hidden near her current residence and fears that her family will be “torn apart” if it is attacked.

Another woman said, in an apparent reference to the detailed tunnel routes Israel received from two apprehended Hamas operatives, that “every tunnel that appeared on that map will be hit in the day before the night.”

Israel destroyed 32 tunnels during the Operation, however Hamas has rebuilt most of the tunnel infrastructure, much of it under residential areas, Israeli officials say. The International Committee of the Red Cross proscribes such activity, as “utilising the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations … constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.”

In private, Gazans are critical of Hamas’ prioritising attacks on Israel over governance and rebuilding the strip. “How can we say they are helping when they are building tunnels?” said another woman.