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Israel’s Army Says it Found, Blocked ‘Attack’ Tunnel From Gaza

Israel's Merkava IV tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Israel's Merkava IV tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it had uncovered and “foiled” a tunnel dug by Gaza’s ruling terror group Hamas. Designed to route militants from Gaza to Israeli territory, the tunnel serves as a passageway for Hamas to launch terror attacks. This announcement follows closely behind the fragile ceasefire between Israeli and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) early this month. Similar to Hamas, the PIJ functions in part to annihilate the Jewish state. Both Gaza-based terror groups receive funding, training, and other forms of assistance from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).

Underground Tunnels Allow Hamas to Move Freely

Since 2007, Hamas has utilized an underground tunnel system as a means to carry out attacks and abduct Israeli soldiers. The terror group has invested millions of dollars into digging its extensive tunnel infrastructure below ground, despite the fact that the Gaza strip and its residents suffer from extreme economic turmoil. In fact, the vast monetary investments in tunnel infrastructure are the result of the terror group diverting humanitarian contributions of money and construction materials from the European Union and other Arab states for the sole purpose of providing avenues for terrorist attacks against Israel. 

A Washington Post article cited Shlomi Eldar’s perception of the tunnel system: “Much to the misfortune of the people of Gaza, Hamas has invested far more resources in ‘underground Gaza’ than in ‘upper Gaza. The ‘change and reform’ that Hamas offered its voters was invested in its tunnels at the expense of the people of Gaza.”

Even during the peak of the tunnel warfare system in the 2014 Gaza War, the passageways were extremely advanced. A common misconception of the tunnels is that they are very narrow, short, and only accessible by crawling. However, the tunnels are very wide and can accommodate any person of average height. They are equipped with communications networks, electricity, and loads of food and water. Hamas militants could live underground fairly comfortably for months at a time. Over the years, militants have launched successful attacks by entering Israeli territory undiscovered vis-à-vis the tunnels.

The IDF Has Developed Ways to Detect and Block Tunnels

Over the years, the IDF has installed a more precise system that supports the neutralization of these tunnels. In December 2021, Israel revealed that it had constructed a barrier along the Gaza border described as an “iron wall.” The IDF’s subterranean shielding is comprised of a vast underground cement barrier built to keep terrorists outside of its border. The shielding prevents any group from digging beneath it and is equipped with sensors to detect such activity. The structure “places an iron wall … between the (Hamas) terror organization and the residents” of southern Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

This week, the IDF said it was able to locate the tunnel due to its “constant and ongoing effort to locate terror tunnels and neutralize them.” The outgoing commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division said that “This is an attack tunnel with two branches, which crossed into Israeli territory but did not cross the new security barrier, and therefore did not pose a risk to the residents of Israel at any stage.”

In May 2021, the IDF launched its “Metro” operation, designed to take out a large chunk of Hamas’s terror tunnel network. Israeli’s Air Force carried out a massive bombardment and destroyed miles of tunnels amidst an intense flare-up of fighting between Israeli and Hamas. The IDF intentionally indicated to the press that its ground forces had entered Gaza, as a ruse to get Hamas to send its militants underground to its tunnels. Although only a dozen or so Hamas operatives we killed in the aerial bombardment, the IDF hoped the operation would dissuade the militants from considering its tunnel systems as secure.

Monday’s operation follows the recently announced ceasefire between Israel and the PIJ earlier this month. For three days prior, rocket barrages and airstrikes catalyzed the most recent exchange of fire between Israel and a Gaza-based group. While the conflict mirrored past flare-ups, Hamas appeared to have stood on the sidelines despite the encouragement of the Iranian regime to proceed with violence. However, since Hamas has funneled so many resources into its underground terror enterprise, its future use should be expected.

Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.