In a “tunnel city” under the sandy soils of southern Gaza, Palestinian militants are preparing for the next conflict with Israel, as tensions in Jerusalem threaten to escalate.
The underground passageways leave no trace on the surface.
But in a wooded area near Khan Yunis, seven masked men in military fatigues carried a collection of machine-guns and grenade launchers into a tunnel entrance discretely tucked into the foot of a small hill.
The fighters wear headbands of the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed branch of Islamic Jihad which is the second-largest armed faction in Gaza, after the Hamas Islamist movement that rules the territory.
The tree branches covering the hole reveal a narrow passageway walled and topped with concrete blocks.
Complete with electric lights, a ventilation system and telecoms cables, the tunnels also have small rooms for storing weapons and ammunition.
An Islamic Jihad official told AFP during a media tour that the movement has both defensive and offensive tunnel systems.
The latter “is used for taking Israeli soldiers captive, repelling Israeli ground offensives and carrying out various field operations”, said the commander.
As he was talking, he received a radio alert of a “security incident” east of Gaza City — a false alarm.