The network of tunnels in the Gaza Strip is much denser than expected – writes “The Economist”. According to the British weekly, over three months of offensive, Israeli forces did not destroy even half of it. It is possible that it will not be completely eliminated, journalists predict. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that Hamas is waging guerrilla warfare and Israeli soldiers are constantly under fire.
One of the main tasks of the Israeli army is to destroy the tunnels under the Gaza Strip, the total length of which at the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas was estimated at several hundred kilometers. But these estimates were probably very low – writes the British weekly “The Economist”.
In Shujaiya, a town located east of Gaza City, Israeli soldiers have just discovered a network of tunnels whose existence was not suspected. It probably belongs to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – one of the smaller Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip, financed by Iran.
The shafts leading to these tunnels were hidden behind the school building, and electricity flowed underground through cables connected to the school’s electrical installation. The Israel Defense Forces said they had discovered more than a thousand such shafts in Gaza City. Some of them lead to small tunnels that are easy to destroy, but others are so large that blowing them up requires complex engineering.
The situation is made more difficult by the fact that Hamas is conducting a guerrilla fight, so Israeli soldiers are constantly under fire and it is difficult to predict how long they will be able to continue such dangerous work, the weekly emphasizes.
Priority for Israeli forces
The destruction of one tunnel in Shujaiya required many large explosions. Meanwhile, the underground network hidden under Shujaiya is a priority for the Israel Defense Forces because the town is located one kilometer from the border with Israel, in front of the Nahal Oz and Kfar Azza kibbutzim, attacked by Hamas on October 7 – explains “The Economist”.
High-ranking Israeli officers admit that it will not be possible to destroy all tunnels in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s time for large-scale military operations is coming to an end because international pressure, especially pressure from the United States, will soon force Israeli authorities to limit operations in the Palestinian semi-enclave, the weekly writes.
Meanwhile, without much progress, intense fighting continues around Khan Yunis, the second largest city in the Strip, where – according to Israeli intelligence – Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is hiding and where hostages are being held.
What complicates the mission?
A former high-ranking commander of the Israeli army says in an interview with the weekly that “the problem is that (soldiers) are trying to achieve three different goals at once (…). Destroy the Hamas brigade in Khan Yunis, eliminate Sinwar and rescue the hostages. Each of them “These missions require different tactical approaches, but they are trying to accomplish all three at once.”
Moreover, these missions are complicated by the fact that the Israel Defense Forces must facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, also to the south of the enclave, where a significant part of its inhabitants have taken refuge – reminds “The Economist”.
In December, the Israeli army admitted that the destruction of the tunnel network could take several months and lead to the destruction of cities on a scale that would make their future reconstruction impossible.
The network of tunnels under the Gaza Strip, built over the last 16 years, since Hamas took control of the enclave, is so dense that in Israel it is called the “metro”. Moreover, some of them are located at such a depth that the bombing by the Israeli air force did not cause much damage.
The tunnels contain Hamas command centers, weapons and food and water warehouses. Head of the US Department of Defense Lloyd Austin He assessed that the tunnel network in the Gaza Strip would be an unprecedented challenge for Israeli forces.
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