Author Biography

Nicole J. Watkins currently works in the Center for Justice, Safety and Resilience at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, NC. She recently served as an Advanced Research Intern in the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division at START. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Criminology from North Carolina State University and a Masters of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

Alena Marie James earned her Masters in Biodefense from George Mason University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science, a Bachelors of Science in biology, and a Masters of Science in biology from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She serves as an adjunct instructor at Marymount University, where she teaches microbiology and manages several life science laboratories. In the spring of 2015, Ms. James served as an Advanced Research Intern in the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division at START.



Subject Area Keywords

Asymmetric warfare, Irregular warfare, Israel, Palestine, Terrorism / counterterrorism


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.


Editor’s Note: This article forms part of a series of related case studies collected in this Special Issue and should be viewed in the context of the broader phenomenon of complex engineering by violent non-state actors. Readers are advised to consult the introductory and concluding papers for a full explanation and comparative analysis of the cases.


This work was supported by Sandia National Laboratories, Contract #1525332. Any opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations in this issue are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of Sandia National Laboratories or the U.S. Department of Energy.