What Hamas planned to do with the terror tunnels - UPDATED
The IDF has not yet located and destroyed all of Hamas' terror tunnels, but the consensus about the intent behind them is quite clear. This is Jonathan Dahoah HeLevi
of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, delivered a revealing speech on
March 23, 2014, in which he stressed the strategic importance of the
Hamas attack tunnels, which, he argued, have changed the balance of
power with Israel, when taken together with his organization’s military
build-up. In the meantime, the IDF’s war against the tunnels continues.
On Monday IDF forces thwarted another terror attack after two groups of
Hamas operatives (numbering about ten) infiltrated from Gaza to Israel
through a tunnel, apparently on their way to carry out a mass casualty
attack at Kibbutz Erez and/or Kibbutz Nir Am.
Since Operation Protective Edge began, IDF forces have foiled several
other attempted attacks by Hamas near Kibbutz Sufa and Kibbutz Nirim
that also made use of attack tunnels, while uncovering and blowing up
dozens of tunnels in Gaza along its border with Israel. These tunnels
penetrate deep into Israeli territory, sometimes reaching a length of
2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles).
attack tunnels create a new equation in the power balance between
Israel and Hamas. They give Hamas an ability to infiltrate Israel and
carry out strategic attacks involving mass killing, along with an
ability to launch missiles from locations concealed within civilian
population centers that serve, in effect, as human shields. Should Hamas
retain in the future 20 tunnels, and dispatch 50 operatives in each,
they could deploy 1,000 men behind Israeli lines. The tunnels would
allow Hamas to wreak havoc if they are left in place.
Hizbullah’s tactics, learned from Iran, have been replicated in Gaza,
particularly the use of the tunnels to provide “breathing space” in
waging the military campaign. The Hamas-Hizbullah-Iranian aim is to
cause as much harm as possible to the civilian population and weaken
Israel by damaging its economy. Like Hizbullah, Hamas in the current
round has tried to strike strategic targets in Israel and inflict mass
casualties, including the nuclear reactor in Dimona, the chemical plants
in Haifa, and Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Despite the reconciliation agreement with Fatah and the establishment
of the unity government, one of Hamas’s objectives in the war is to
ignite another intifada on the West Bank aimed ultimately at the
toppling of Palestinian Authority rule and instituting a Hamas takeover
of the Palestinian national movement. This current round of fighting
highlights the importance of continued Israeli security control of key
areas of the West Bank to prevent a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian
Authority, and the maintenance of minimal defensible borders should a
Palestinian state be established.
Then there's this assessment from Times of Israel's David Horovitz
The prime danger, the second half of the
terror strategy that has required us to send our troops into Gaza, has
turned out to be Hamas’s cross-border tunneling, the scale of which was
not publicly known until the last few days. Labor Party leader Isaac
Herzog spoke Tuesday of the “unimaginable” mega-terror attack Hamas is
believed to have been planning — sending hundreds of terrorists swarming
through those tunnels to massacre Israelis in the Gaza-envelope
kibbutzim and moshavim. Netanyahu said Sunday that the intended Hamas
attacks on kibbutz kindergartens, homes and dining halls would have been
Five times in recent days, trying to use those
tunnels before the army finds them, well-armed terror gangs have made
their way through — entering them from beneath homes in the Gaza
neighborhoods a few hundred yards from the border, and emerging inside
Israel. An estimated 20 Hamas gunmen have been killed in the subsequent
confrontations; so have six IDF soldiers. Kibbutzim and moshavim close
to Gaza have been placed on shutdown for long hours while the army
made sure there were no more killers on the loose. Troop deployments on
the Israeli side have been significantly bolstered.
But those are defensive measures. The real
battle is taking place in those Gaza border neighborhoods — Shejaiya,
Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and others — where thousands of Israeli solders
are searching, house to house, for the tunnel entrances. Dozens of
openings have been found — multiple entrances to the underground
passages that also have multiple exits on the Israeli side. Time after
time, Hamas gunmen have sought to surprise the Israeli soldiers by
rising out of the earth from these openings, and firing. They’ve been
largely unsuccessful. Ten Hamas gunmen were shot dead attempting the
feat from one tunnel opening inside a mosque on Sunday, military sources
said — just one of numerous such incidents.
Israel says some 210 Hamas fighters have been
killed; more than 20 have been captured and are providing intelligence
on the tunnels.
Labels: Gaza, Hamas, Hamas rockets, IDF, Mumbai terror attacks, Operation Protective Edge, terror tunnels