A Case Study of Thin Concrete Wall Elements Subjected to Ground Loads

Davide Elmo, Amichai Mitelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Smuggling and warfare tunnels are unique structures that have rarely been studied from an engineering perspective. A notable example is the vast networks of tunnels that were secretly constructed underneath the Gaza Strip. Particularly because these tunnels were not designed and constructed via traditional engineering practice, they constitute an interesting case study. The tunnels are supported by thin precast concrete elements, with the wall elements being the critical structural element. While some instances of structural failure and collapse have been reported in the media, a great number of the tunnels have remained stable. In this paper, we attempt to conduct a forward analysis to estimate the load and response of the wall elements. We estimate the range of problem input parameters based on multiple sources, including media accounts, geological research papers, and geotechnical reports obtained from the vicinity of the Gaza tunnels. The problem is then analyzed using two approaches: (1) a simplified structural analysis based on lateral earth-pressure theory and (2) numerical modeling. Both analysis methods show that the wall elements should fail due to compression even under the most favorable estimates of input parameters, in contrast to actual reality. We discuss possible explanations for this disparity. While it is not possible to pinpoint the exact explanation, we argue that current geotechnical practice is generally biased toward conservatism, even prior to the application of safety factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number713
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • concrete
  • ground loads
  • sand
  • tunnels

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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