Hamas has at all times had a repute for having among the greatest underground tunnels of any militia.
In a media tour organized by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) into Gaza, some of the spectacular tunnels the Israeli navy has found was on full show.
The doorway was simply inside Gaza, just a few hundred metres from the Erez border crossing with Israel, the place there was a gaping gap within the sand.
Inside was a closely fortified tunnel, and doubtless the biggest tunnel I’ve ever seen in Gaza.
There was loads of room contained in the strengthened concrete tunnel. A metal pipe ran alongside the highest of it, and electrical energy cables dangled inside.
The IDF stated the tunnel ran for greater than two miles into central Gaza Metropolis.
It is no secret Hamas has been constructing its tunnel infrastructure for years. It makes use of them to move fighters, not solely belonging to Hamas but in addition different militant teams like Islamic Jihad, from one finish of the strip to the opposite.
Tunnels are additionally used to maneuver and retailer weapons, launch assaults towards Israel and, on this conflict, to carry hostages.
With each conflict with Israel, tunnels are destroyed and rebuilt once more. However the extent of the labyrinth beneath Gaza is troublesome to fathom, it is believed it could stretch 150-200 miles.
There have been no lights inside. The IDF had positioned a steel grid on the ground to cowl holes within the floor that dropped by as much as 15 metres, right down to different elements of the subterranean advanced.
One IDF spokesman instructed me the diploma of sophistication and engineering used to construct and preserve these tunnels was “spectacular”.
Within the distance you may hear small arms fireplace and occasional explosions. Smoke hung over the northeastern tip of Gaza, and you may see giant blocks of flats, diminished to rubble.
The land inside Gaza subsequent to the Israel border, which is called the buffer zone, was churned up by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.
The IDF’s automated machine gun towers – which encompass the Gaza strip and are positioned alongside the wall – had been clearly closely broken within the 7 October assault by Hamas.
The coated walkway from the Erez crossing into Gaza was destroyed, together with Israeli border workplaces adjoining to the crossing.
Hamas has lengthy promoted its community of tunnels on its official tv information station, however I can not recall them ever permitting journalists to go to these it constructed for combating.
Israel insists its conflict should proceed till the tunnels are destroyed and Hamas is defeated. Its media tour was aimed toward displaying journalists what they had been coping with beneath Gaza.
The issue is the tunnels are embedded into the Gaza strip. This tiny strip of land is among the many most densely populated locations on earth, so after all the tunnels run deep under houses, faculties and neighbourhoods.
Hamas has been perfecting its tunnel-building during the last 20 years. Members of the group and smuggling barons constructed them underneath the southern Egyptian border after Israel imposed its siege on Gaza in 2006.
I’ve visited the underground networks on the backside of Gaza over time, they usually had been crude compared to the one we had been proven within the north.
Within the south, the tunnels had been carved out of sand, usually solely excessive sufficient to crawl by, and the lads who dug them had been usually killed when ceilings collapsed.
Whereas this conflict continues, Hamas’s fighters are nonetheless holed up inside these subterranean passages, as are Israeli hostages.
It is left the IDF with a dilemma: how you can destroy the community with out killing hostages within the course of.
As for Gaza’s civilian infrastructure above floor, the United Nations says 45% of the territory’s housing inventory has been destroyed.
Israel says it needs to guard civilians throughout this conflict, however Gaza’s Well being officers say that almost 21,000 Palestinians have been killed up to now.
The tunnels have given Hamas an amazing navy strategic benefit on this conflict – Israel needs them destroyed as soon as and for all.