Over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces began the next phase of Operation Swords of Iron.
Three weeks have passed since Hamas launched its heinous October 7 attack, and the IDF is beginning to move troops and armored vehicles over the border into the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, Israeli troops engaged in a series of battles with Hamas terrorists in Gaza, according to the military. Dozens of militants were killed in these overnight raids, and the fighting is ongoing. An IDF spokesperson said, “We are carrying out an expanded ground operation into the Strip… forces are moving towards the terrorists, the terrorists are barricading themselves in staging grounds, and we are attacking them from the air.”
Israel has held off launching a full-scale ground incursion since October 7 in part due to U.S. requests. American citizens are among the hostages held in Hamas’ underground network of tunnels.
Hamas’s Terror Tunnels
As the IDF enters the second phase of war in Gaza, dismantling Hamas’ underground tunnel system is essential. Intelligence shows that Hamas uses a labyrinth of passages beneath Gaza to plan, organize and carry out terror attacks in Israel. Analysts believe this so-called Gaza Metro stretches more than 300 miles and has evolved in recent years. Today, tunnels are equipped with electricity and phone lines and are reinforced with concrete. News outlets have documented how the terror group diverts construction materials and other aid meant to support Gaza’s civilian population in order to build and maintain these terror tunnels.
Over the weekend, the IDF said its warplanes had targeted 150 underground targets in northern Gaza. As detailed by the Associated Press, these targets included “tunnels, combat spaces and other underground infrastructure. The strikes — what appeared to be Israel’s most significant bombardment of tunnels yet — came as it ramped up its ground operations in Gaza.”
IDF Says Hamas Command Center Is Underneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza
A captured terrorist that participated in the October 7 massacre told Israeli military officials that Hamas uses tunnels positioned beneath the Shifa hospital in Gaza City to transport weapons. The IDF released footage of an interrogation segment with this terrorist, who explains how Shifa hospital has “underground levels.” According to the IDF, Hamas also has a command center located inside the hospital, which it uses to launch rockets towards the Jewish state.
Since Hamas’ terror network is vast and intricate, it will take some time for the IDF to fully obliterate these tunnels. Since Hamas could divert fuel imports for generators that pump air into its tunnel network, Israel has blocked fuel shipments to Gaza in order to expedite its goal of dismantling the terror group and its military assets. A complicating factor in the second phase of war involves the hostages Hamas kidnapped on October 7. The use of these hostages as human shields will certainly play a part in the terror group’s next moves.
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. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.