Israeli War of Independence II. Israel’s Defenses and the Implications for the Security of Hamas’ Inner-Gaza Tunnels
The announcement was made after a communications failure in Gaza over the weekend, that happened at the beginning of Israel’s ground operations.
The activity at the border took place as internet and phone service in Gaza was out again Wednesday. The Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel attributed the outage to “international routes that were previously reconnected being disconnected again.”
According to the Palestinian officials, more than 8,000 people have been killed and 20,000 others have been injured by Israeli strikes. Thousands of foreign passport holders and hundreds of American citizens have been stranded in Gaza as a result of the war.
Foreign passport holders will be able to exit Gaza at the Rafah border, according to a Hamas announcement early Wednesday. A list of over 500 foreigners that was published by the authority included their names and passport information, most of which were citizens of eight countries. It is possible the list of 489 foreign nationals is not comprehensive and more people will be added.
The first group of people trapped in Gaza would be allowed to leave after all, as foreign nationals gathered at Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt on Wednesday.
On the other side of the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt stood ambulances, waiting to evacuate critically injured people from the besieged territory, where Israeli airstrikes have killed thousands.
Hamas claims that it has 300 miles of tunnels in Gaza, which it says is an all-purpose military compound. According to Israel, the underground space includes military headquarters, sleeping quarters, as well as workshops to make and store rockets.
Hamas first used the tunnels to shock Israel in 2006. The group dug a passageway under the Gaza border fence and emerged on the Israeli side, kidnapping an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. He was held for five years, and ultimately exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Chuck Freilich remembers the tunnels were part of the Israeli security discussions when he was Israel’s deputy national security advisor in the early 2000s. He thinks the expansion of Hamas tunnels is a result of Israel’s underestimating Hamas.
“You don’t believe that the enemy can do X and so you don’t see it,” he said. “Then in retrospect, it usually turns out that there’s lots of information in the system but people, smart people, ignored it.”
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The Israelis claimed that the attack on the Hamas commander destroyed the tunnels used by the group. The strike killed one of the highest civilian casualties to date.
“I think there’s all sorts of fancy technology being used to try and map out the tunnels,” he said. We may not know everything that’s there. At every turn, a booby trap is waiting for you. And of course, the hostages are probably down there somewhere.”
The spokesman for Israel’s military stated that Hamas has a network of tunnels inside and underneath Gaza hospitals.
Hamas denied this. The group says Israel makes the accusations to justify a relentless bombing campaign that’s already killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
The concrete barrier was added deep underground to prevent Hamas from tunneling beneath it when Israel upgraded the fence a few years ago.
The U.S. learned the harsh reality of fighting in the tunnels when American troops battled the Viet Cong in Vietnam. In the decades since, militaries have developed new weapons to destroy the tunnels, likebunker-busting bombs and high pressure water hoses.
She said that Israel knows it is hard to destroy tunnels. Five years ago, Israel discovered that the militant Hezbollah group had dug from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.