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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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International

Israel-Hamas war goes underground as IDF attacks tunnels beneath Gaza

Oct 31, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists is moving into its second phase. That means there will be more ground troops in Gaza, where much of the fighting is expected to take place below the surface. On Oct. 31, more than three weeks after the war started, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) started attacking Hamas fighters inside the underground “terror tunnels.”

For more than a decade, Hamas diverted building materials meant for the people of Gaza to create its elaborate network of subsurface tunnels. Both the IDF and Hamas have said the tunnels are used to store weapons, food, fuel and other supplies.

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The tunnels are also used as command posts to plan attacks, keep kidnap victims, and to protect Hamas fighters from Israeli airstrikes.

A senior Hamas official, Moura Abu Marzouk, was asked during an interview on “Russia Today” why Hamas, the governing body in Gaza, expended so many resources to build tunnels, instead of something useful for the people of Gaza.

Marzouk said it’s not Hamas’ responsibility to protect Gazans, but the United Nations’.

“We have built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being targeted and killed,” Marzouk told RT. “These tunnels are meant to protect us from the airplanes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels. Everybody knows that 75% of the people in the Gaza strip are refugees, and it is the responsibility of the United Nations to protect them. According to the Geneva Conventions, it is the responsibility of the occupation to provide them with all the services, as long as they are under occupation.”

It should be noted, the Israeli government removed all of its soldiers and residents from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Hamas was then elected into office by the Palestinians living in Gaza, and Israel began imposing a blockade on Gaza in 2007. Egypt also imposes a blockade on Gaza.

Since coming to power, Hamas is estimated to have constructed over 300 miles of tunnels under Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on the planet.

The IDF said it has proof that Hamas puts the entrances to the underground network, dubbed the “Gaza Metro,” under soft targets like the Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in all of Gaza.

During the first phase of the war, Israel relied on air strikes to destroy many of the tunnels close to the surface. However, it’s believed Hamas’ web of underground corridors is close to 200 feet deep in some spots, making demolition from the air nearly impossible.

Hamas is using the tunnels to hold more than 200 people who were kidnapped during the initial Oct. 7 attacks. Four hostages have been released so far, and a captive female IDF soldier was freed by her fellow Israeli soldiers during a combat operation.

Negotiations to free the remaining hostages are stalled, so the IDF will most likely now rely on special forces units within the Yahalom Engineering Corps for the “de-tunneling” operations. Known as Samur, or “weasel” in Hebrew, these special operators spent years training how to fight and win in a maze of underground tunnels where booby traps, IEDs, and enemy soldiers could all be lurking around each corner.

Armored Namer combat vehicles will transport the Samur units to the tunnel entrances, where remote-controlled robots and drones can provide more intelligence. There are rumors in certain intelligence circles that Israel has a new type of munition known as a “sponge grenade” to seal up tunnels, as well. The grenade reportedly creates a wall of quickly expanding foam that then hardens.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Mark Schwartz helped coordinate security in Israel from 2019 until 2021. He told USA Today that while the IDF may know what it’s facing, the magnitude of the challenge ahead will be unlike anything Israel, or the United States, has ever seen before.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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ISRAEL’S WAR AGAINST HAMAS TERRORISTS IS MOVING INTO ITS SECOND PHASE. THAT MEANS MORE GROUND TROOPS IN GAZA, WHERE MUCH OF THE FIGHTING IS EXPECTED TO TAKE PLACE BELOW THE SURFACE. ON OCTOBER 31ST, MORE THAN THREE WEEKS AFTER THE WAR STARTED, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES STARTED ATTACKING HAMAS FIGHTERS INSIDE THE UNDERGROUND TERROR TUNNELS.

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, HAMAS DIVERTED BUILDING MATERIALS MEANT FOR THE PEOPLE OF GAZA TO CREATE ITS ELABORATE NETWORK OF SUBSURFACE TUNNELS. THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES AND HAMAS BOTH SAY THE TERRORISTS USE THE TUNNELS TO STORE WEAPONS, FOOD, FUEL AND OTHER SUPPLIES.

THE TUNNELS ARE ALSO USED AS COMMAND POSTS TO PLAN ATTACKS, KEEP KIDNAP VICTIMS, AND OF COURSE TO PROTECT HAMAS FIGHTERS FROM ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES. A SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL WAS ASKED DURING AN INTERVIEW ON RUSSIA TODAY WHY HAMAS, THE GOVERNING BODY IN GAZA, EXPENDED SO MANY RESOURCES TO BUILD TUNNELS INSTEAD OF SOMETHING USEFUL FOR THE PEOPLE OF GAZA. THAT OFFICIAL SAID IT’S NOT HIS PARTY’S RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT GAZANS, BUT THE UN’S.

Mousa Abu Marzouk: We have built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being targeted and killed. These tunnels are meant to protect us from the airplanes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels.

THERE IS AN ESTIMATED 300 MILES OF TUNNELS UNDER GAZA, ONE OF THE MOST DENSELY POPULATED PLACES ON THE PLANET.

THE IDF SAYS IT HAS PROOF HAMAS PUTS THE ENTRANCES TO THE UNDERGROUND NETWORK, DUBBED THE GAZA METRO, UNDER SOFT TARGETS LIKE THE SHIFA HOSPITAL, THE LARGEST MEDICAL COMPLEX IN ALL OF GAZA.

DURING THE FIRST PHASE OF THE WAR, ISRAEL RELIED ON AIR STRIKES TO DESTROY MANY OF THE TUNNELS CLOSE TO THE SURFACE, BUT IT’S BELIEVED HAMAS’ WEB OF UNDERGROUND CORRIDORS IS CLOSE TO 200 FEET DEEP IN SOME SPOTS, MAKING DEMOLITION FROM THE AIR NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.

HAMAS IS USING THE TUNNELS TO KEEP THE MORE THAN 200 PEOPLE KIDNAPPED DURING THE INITIAL OCTOBER 7TH ATTACKS. FOUR HOSTAGES HAVE BEEN RELEASED SO FAR, AND A FEMALE IDF SOLDIER TAKEN CAPTIVE WAS FREED BY HER FELLOW ISRAELI SOLDIERS DURING A COMBAT OPERATION.

NEGOTIATIONS TO FREE THE REMAINING HOSTAGES ARE STALLED, SO THE IDF WILL MOST LIKELY NOW RELY ON SPECIAL FORCES UNITS WITHIN THE YAHALOM ENGINEERING CORPS FOR THE DE-TUNNELING OPERATIONS. KNOWN AS SAMUR, OR WEASEL IN HEBREW, THESE SPECIAL OPERATORS SPENT YEARS TRAINING HOW TO FIGHT AND WIN IN A MAZE OF UNDERGROUND TUNNELS WHERE BOOBY TRAPS, IEDs, AND ENEMY SOLDIERS COULD ALL BE LURKING AROUND EACH CORNER.

ARMORED NAMER COMBAT VEHICLES WILL TRANSPORT THE SAMUR UNITS TO THE TUNNEL ENTRANCES, WHERE REMOTE CONTROLLED ROBOTS AND DRONES CAN PROVIDE MORE INTELLIGENCE. THERE ARE RUMORS IN CERTAIN INTELLIGENCE CIRCLES ISRAEL HAS A NEW TYPE OF FOAM GRENADE THAT CAN SEAL UP TUNNELS AS WELL.

RETIRED US ARMY GENERAL MARK SCHWARTZ HELPED COORDINATE SECURITY IN ISRAEL FROM 2019 UNTIL 2021. HE SAYS WHILE THE IDF MAY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE FACING, THE MAGNITUDE OF THE CHALLENGE AHEAD WILL BE UNLIKE ANYTHING ISRAEL, OR THE UNITED STATES, HAS EVER SEEN BEFORE.