Friday, July 19, 2024

During an interview, he recounted the final days of the Mosul battle in Iraq, where Islamic State fighters sought refuge in a network of underground tunnels in 2017. He stated, “Our Iraqi soldiers were using bulldozers to clear out ISIS fighters who were literally entrenched in the rubble. It was an extremely brutal situation.”

Tunnels have been a prevalent feature of life in Gaza for several years, but their numbers increased significantly after Hamas assumed control of the area in 2007 and Israel imposed a stricter blockade. In response, Palestinians constructed hundreds of tunnels to smuggle in essential supplies, people, and weapons.

According to the Israeli military, each tunnel costs Hamas approximately $3 million. Some are constructed using prefabricated materials such as concrete and iron, with medical rooms to provide aid to injured fighters. Others are situated 130 feet below ground, capable of accommodating individuals for months.

In Israel, the tunnel system is often referred to as “lower Gaza” or the “metro.”

Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old woman who was held captive by Hamas for 17 days, described being led through an extensive network of tunnels. She recounted being marched through the damp and humid underground corridors, eventually reaching “a large hall where around 25 captives were concentrated.”

After a few hours, she stated that five people from her kibbutz were taken to a separate room.

During a press conference, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, accused Hamas of constructing tunnels and other facilities beneath Gaza’s largest medical center, Al Shifa Hospital. He presented intercepted audio recordings and an illustration of the underground complex.

General Votel, who visited a Hezbollah-controlled tunnel near the Israeli border, expressed astonishment at the level of effort put into creating these structures. He stated, “This wasn’t simply holes in the ground, it was a complex architecture. The tunnels were interconnected with various rooms and built to withstand strikes from the surface.”

As Hamas expanded the underground network, it concealed tunnel entrances within homes and other small structures on the Egyptian side of the border, according to Joel Roskin, a geology professor at Bar-Ilan University, who studied tunnels during his time in the Israeli military. These tunnels facilitated the smuggling of goods from Egypt.

The tunnel system extends all the way to the northern border of Israel.

Around a decade ago, Egypt undertook efforts to demolish the tunnels along its border, using tactics such as dumping sewage and destroying houses that concealed entrances, as stated by Mr. Roskin. He also noted that Israel has limited visibility into tunnel activities on the Egyptian side of the border. While many of these networks terminate in Northern Sinai, the Egyptian government rarely permits Israeli researchers or officials to visit the area, making it unclear how many cross-border tunnels still exist.

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