‘We know they’re waiting for us’: Gaza’s tunnels pose deadly challenge for Israeli troops

Smoke billows throughout Israeli strikes on Gaza City on October 11, 2023.

Majdi Fathi | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Israeli troops are massing on the border of Gaza following Saturday’s shock assault inside Israel, however their orders are nonetheless unclear.

What is evident, nonetheless – in keeping with Israeli troops who’ve fought inside Gaza earlier than – any invasion goes to be troublesome, harmful and bloody.

Gaza – with greater than 15,000 individuals per every of its 139 sq. miles – is likely one of the most densely populated places on the earth. Inside navy circles in Israel, there are two Gazas to cope with: Upper Gaza, which is all the pieces above floor, and decrease Gaza, the place bombs and drones cannot get to, and complex satellites cannot see deep under the ground.

“You have infants and terrorists in the identical home,” stated one reserve soldier who declined to present his title as a result of his position in Israel’s safety service. The soldier has fought in Gaza a number of instances during the last 15 years.

Israel believes Hamas is attempting to attract troopers into territory the militant group is aware of significantly better. Officials count on the tunnels and floor all through the realm to be booby-trapped with explosives. 

“Nobody actually is aware of what’s underground,” stated Harel Chorev, a Palestinian historian at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies. 

Israel’s intelligence neighborhood believes a lot of the cash and materials the world gave to the individuals of Gaza to rebuild after earlier wars has been taken by Hamas and reinvested within the elaborate system of tunnels and bunkers.

“I do not see Israeli troopers with the ability to storm these tunnels,” Chorev stated. Instead he believes they are going to try to find them and discover methods to “smoke them out.” 

An Israeli military officer walks on July 25, 2014 throughout an army-organised tour in a tunnel stated for use by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip for cross-border assaults. Israel launched its navy offensive aiming at destroying tunnels utilized by Gaza militants.

JACK GUEZ | AFP | Getty Images

Despite Israel’s fixed air assaults on Gaza, Hamas has nonetheless been in a position to hearth rockets at Israeli cities 5 days into the preventing. In many instances these rockets are hidden underground on tracks to allow them to be moved throughout the tunnel community, irritating Israel’s air drive. The estimated 150 Israeli hostages seized in Hamas’ preliminary invasion Saturday are additionally believed to be hidden in these tunnels, making any potential rescue effort extraordinarily troublesome, if not unimaginable.

Hamas’ tunnels have frightened Israeli troopers and civilians for years. They have been weaponized round 2006, when members of Hamas used the system to sneak into Israel to kill two troopers, wound two others and seize soldier Gilad Shalit. He was held captive underground for greater than 5 years and in the end returned to Israel in a swap for 1,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. 

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Over the final decade, nervous Israelis have reported listening to digging underground. The military has tried to give you means to find and destroy the tunnels on either side of the border, with solely restricted success.

Israel’s military is aware of the sophisticated underground system has electrical mills, intelligence rooms and provides for Hamas’ underground military. Nobody in Israel appears to know how lengthy the tunnels are however they know it is a large community typically euphemistically known as “Gaza’s Metro.”

“We know they’re waiting for us,” stated the soldier who beforehand fought in Gaza. “And as dangerous as Gaza is above floor, underground is way worse.”

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