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IDF Has Dug Itself Into a Big Hole

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10 December 2023, The Daily Telegraph

TEL AVIV: The air strikes on Gaza might be getting all the publicity but the real war is happening deep underground as the Israel Defense Forces grapple with how to destroy Hamas’s giant tunnel network.

Many complex strategies have been put forward for waging this underground war. Most recently, Israel was reported to be putting in place pumps to flood the tunnels with seawater.

In practice, what the army is having to do is more modest and painstaking. “We put in landmines,” said Lieutenant Colonel Amit, an engineer who has been working his way through the wreckage of Beit Hanoun, a town in the northeast of the Gaza Strip, looking for shafts. He gave only his first name. Asked about the pumps and the flooding proposal, he was laconic. “That’s not part of my plan,” he said.

Instead, after the infantry have cleared apartment blocks and streets – or what remains of them – his men scour them for holes. They have sonar equipment but it is of limited efficiency, particularly for deeper tunnels. Normally the eyes are the tools, and then dogs and small robots.

If they miss an entrance, Hamas fighters could emerge, staging lightning attacks before disappearing again.

At one point, the Israelis thought Hamas’s claim to have 500km miles of tunnels crisscrossing Gaza was an exaggeration. Now they believe it is an underestimate.

Amit compared the network to trees – concrete-reinforced trunks, big enough for jeeps to drive along and with rooms coming off them, and branches leading to the open air.

Overall, the army says it has uncovered 800 tunnel shafts and destroyed 500. Anthony King, an expert on urban warfare at Exeter University, said the IDF’s plan to eliminate the tunnels would take months – an operation that would be difficult to sustain.

“You can certainly degrade Hamas significantly and degrade the tunnel system significantly, but I’m not sure controlling the whole tunnel system is fully achievable,” he said.

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Article source: Daily Telegraph | 10.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000