The tunnel opening into the children’s room was located in one of the homes on the Mediterranean coast in the north of the Gaza Strip, in a neighborhood with “superior” apartments, reported reporter Emanuel Fabian. With the assistance of soldiers, he carefully looked inside from above – one branch of the tunnel headed west towards the coast and the other south-east towards Gaza City, where the Israelis assume the densest network of Hamas tunnels.
“We came across a lot of weapons, a lot of tunnels. Here you saw one under the children’s room. We found them on playgrounds, in kindergartens and in mosques. Tomorrow morning someone will say ‘Why did they attack the mosque?’ So this is the reason,” a commander of the 614th Combat Engineer Battalion named Adoniram told a Times of Israel reporter.
The so-called subway in Gaza, as the Israelis euphemistically call the underground corridors of terrorists, according to Hamas claims, stretches for a total length of about 500 kilometers, while some of the corridors are even thirty meters deep below the surface. “The army is gradually discovering that what the Israeli intelligence services knew about the network of defensive tunnels of Hamas under Gaza was only the tip of the iceberg,” the website of the Israeli newspaper Ha’arec noted this week.
“Given the water and oxygen reserves found, it can be judged that they are prepared for a long-term stay in the tunnels,” the Israeli army announced this week, which also released a drone video purportedly showing the destruction of one of the tunnels, which was supposed to be located near a school paid for by the Authority United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Beit Hanoun area of the northern Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army has already made it clear that it has no plans to engage in dangerous fighting in the tunnels, which are likely to hide a number of traps. Instead, he destroys the discovered tunnels with explosives. At the same time, alternative methods are also being considered – for example, in the form of a rapidly expanding foam, which immediately hardens.
Foam as a weapon. Israel can surprise Hamas terrorists with a tunnel-clogging bomb
Israeli soldiers usually “clear” sites in several stages. After the air force strikes, the ground forces equipped with, among other things, armored bulldozers. The soldiers then double-check each remaining building for tunnel entrances or weapons. “The first inspection is sometimes very quick, the second one is like an operation. We are going from corner to corner until we find everything,” one of the deployed reservists told the Times of Israel website.
Adoniram admits that even then there is no certainty that there are no undiscovered tunnels left at the site. But it is necessary to proceed further, and the described multi-stage system of “cleansing” is the maximum that the Israeli soldiers can do at the moment.
At the same time, the engineer battalion commander admits that although his soldiers directly clashed with Hamas gunmen several times, there were far fewer of them than he expected. He assumes that most of them fled or hid in the tunnels before the arrival of Israeli ground forces.
The area seems like an abandoned landscape even to the reporter of the Times of Israel website. “Neighborhoods along the northern coast of Gaza are ghost towns. There were no civilians and not a car in sight,” he writes, adding that since the current fighting began, the UN estimates that roughly 1.5 million of the more than two million residents of the Gaza Strip have been displaced.
Many responded to Israel’s call and moved to the south of the Palestinian enclave, which is also not spared Israeli aerial retaliatory attacks, but where the fighting is less intense. According to Adoniram, those who remain in the north often hide in school or hospital buildings, but are rarely seen outside.
“I know there were other areas where civilians were. I also know that Hamas also used the civilians who remained as human shields,” he said, describing one of the stories, which he only heard from hearsay. Israeli soldiers were approached by civilians who asked them for water. Subsequently, the soldiers were ambushed by gunmen who used the civilians as human shields.
The Israelis have repeatedly drawn attention to the placement of rocket launchers, weapons depots and other military facilities of Hamas in civilian buildings. At the same time, the Gaza Strip has one of the highest population densities in the world.
Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas killed over 1,400 residents, mostly civilians, in an attack on southern Israel on October 7. They also dragged away over 240 hostages, who are at least partly held in the underground tunnels of the Gaza Strip.
More than 10,800 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes in Gaza, according to Hamas officials there – but these figures could not be immediately independently verified.
Israeli engineers liquidate tunnels under the Gaza Strip