The Hamas “Underground”
According to one of Israel’s major Hebrew dailies, security sources indicate that the goal of Hamas in constructing the mass of tunnels was to carry out a coordinated mega-attack against Israeli civilians on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September. The plan was to send 200 terrorists through each of the dozens of tunnels at once, to at least six settlements in the western Negev. Some of those tunnels were intended to exit in the middle of those settlements. Indeed, while not containing railway cars, nevertheless, the system of tunnels could easily be said to be the
While not all of the tunnels have been disclosed, some had definite goals, while other targets remain undisclosed. Locating the entrance to the tunnels is a gargantuan task, as some are located within residential neighbourhoods inside of Gaza. This photo, declassified by the IDF, shows a tunnel entrance located between a school, a mosque and civilian houses.
As reported by the Maariv newspaper, the terrorists planned to kill and/or kidnap dozens of Israelis and take them to the Gaza Strip, according to the circumstances that will develop at the time of the attack. This plan was hinted at by P.M. Netanyahu at the beginning of today’s cabinet meeting, when he said “These tunnels were to allow the enemy to simultaneously attack and commit massive terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.”
During the course of Operation Protective Edge, Israel discovered that some of the tunnels don’t go in a straight line from one location to another, like the ones shown above. Rather, some tunnels lead to others, revealing an entire tunnel system, well planned and interlinking. Inside of the tunnels are rooms for storage of explosive and holes that would allow for prompt exit from the tunnels to the outside, as well as other features. Security sources indicated that in order to properly deal with the tunnel problem, the IDF needs more time, inasmuch as they are not even half the way there.
We should be thankful for the events that led up to this unplanned war with Hamas, which helped to prevent a tragedy that could have been as great, if not greater, than that which occurred during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. These tunnels were constructed over a period of many years, at a cost of millions of dollars, with funds that were given to the people in Gaza, intended for the building of a socio-economic infrastructure for the residents of the Gaza Strip, rather than tunnels for Hamas terrorists. When Hamas came to the realization that it cannot defeat Israeli militarily, it began to focus its attention on attacking Israel through the tunnels, with the purpose of attacking settlement and/or cities and killing as many civilians as possible, or of kidnapping soldiers and civilians and dispersing them throughout the Gaza Strip, where Israel would never be able to locate them all.
It was discovered that three shifts of Hamas terrorists worked on the tunnels, progressing an average of about 15 meters (about 50 feet) per day. Some of them extended for 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile). Tens of tunnels have already been destroyed, as the IDF intelligence was able to discover their locations. The realization of the extent of the tunnel system became evident only after other locations were discovered after interrogating dozens of terrorists who were either taken captive or who surrendered to Israeli forces.
A week-long truce was suggested by U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of Egypt. The lull in the fighting is intended to facilitate additional negotiations between the parties in Cairo. Hamas was demanding that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip be opened, that the “Palestinian” Authority (headed up by Mahmoud Abbas from Ramallah) transfer funds necessary to pay Hamas employees. After that, Hamas wants to be able to establish air and sea ports in Gaza. In short, Hamas is demanding that it be allowed to establish a “Palestinian” state in Gaza. That would grant it the right to bring in military equipment, create an air force and import fighters from neighboring countries. Israel, on the other hand, is demanding the full demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, along with guarantees that Hamas will cease its tunnel enterprise and will not resume efforts at rearmament.
Both sides rejected the proposed week-long truce. It should be noted that every time Israel agreed to a temporary halt in the fighting, for humanitarian reasons, Hamas took advantage of it and immediately violated every truce by sending more missiles into Israeli communities. Notwithstanding that, both sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian truce, from 08:00 a.m. to 08:00 p.m. today (Saturday). As of this writing, the truce was extended until midnight. Notwithstanding this temporary truce, efforts to locate the tunnels will continue.
Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking this past Wednesday from the safety and security of Qatar, left little, if any, room for discussion. He wants what he wants and he wants it now – a “Palestinian” state, an end to the maritime blockade of Israel and Egypt and even the disarmament of Israel. He seems oblivious to the suffering of his own people and is obviously detached from the situation on the ground.
At this point, the fighting in Gaza is focused on trying to locate the tunnels and destroy them. The IDF encounters opposition from Hamas, which has resulted thus far in the deaths of 41 soldiers, with some 200+ injured. When I began this post, 35 soldiers had been killed. In the interim, another 6 were killed in the fighting. A full ground offensive is still possible and plans have already been prepared for this contingency.
With international pressure mounting against Israel, along with increased unrest in Judea and Samaria, the cabinet knows that it is rapidly approaching the time when a critical decision needs to be made regarding Operation Protective Edge – either to end it or expand it. If the decision is made to end the Operation, without accomplishing our goals of destroying the tunnels and elimination the military infrastructure of Hamas, the consequences for Israel would be disastrous and would endanger the entire southern section of Israel. Politically, it could cause the Netanyahu coalition to collapse. If the decision is made to expand the Operation, our goals would need to be redefined, particularly in light of the increasing opposition to it from abroad, as well as from the Israeli left.
The intention of Hamas is to kill as many civilians as possible. It is estimated that about half of Hamas’ missile capability has been destroyed. While that is, indeed, good news, the bad news is that it still has a few thousand more missiles at its disposal.
As long as there is ignorance of Israel’s right to exist here
, wars like the present one will continue. When religious fanaticism, having no bearing upon historic reality, continues to exist among members of the Hamas upper echelon, the fighting will continue. When entire populations are taught, from childhood on, to believe the claims of Islamists, that world domination will come about by conquest and subjection to Islam, the bloodshed will continue. As long as the people in Gaza are encouraged to exalt death over life
, many more will needlessly lose their lives. As long as Hamas is leading its people to death
, whether forced or voluntary, the death count will inevitably increase.
Forty one soldiers have given their lives that the citizens of Israel would be freed from the missile onslaught emanating from Gaza. Terrorist infiltrators have been caught and eliminated. Despite thousands of missiles being launched against Israeli citizens, fewer than a handful have been killed. Each day, we witness a multitude of miracles. Each day, we hear more and more people expressing thanks to God for watching over Israel. Indeed, “the keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps”. (Psalm 121:4)
The city beneath the ground of Gaza City
Many here started to ask why we didn’t we deal with the tunnel threat before now. The existence of the tunnel network was known even by the children in Gaza. The intelligence branch of the IDF knew about the tunnels, that were being built, apparently, over the course of about a dozen years. The press reported on it and our leadership was aware of it, but chose to downplay the threat. Why only now, almost three weeks into Operation Protective Edge, is the strategic danger of these tunnels coming to light? We can ask many questions, but the answers are few. In some cases, there are no answers at all.
These are not the simple types of tunnels dug under the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. These are sophisticated, concrete-lined tunnels that are sizable enough to allow entire companies of terrorists to pass through to their goals not only inside Israel, but inside of communities within Israel. The construction and planning, as well as the navigation and logistics involved, required backing and guidance, both governmental and professional.
A tunnel system that would allow access to targets in Israel is not the only problem. They are designed in such a way as to allow Hamas operatives to move from one place to another without being detected. There is also a system of underground bunkers, which contain command and control centers, allowing for Hamas leadership, both political and military, to “sit out the war” without harm.
Despite knowing about the existence of the almost 10,000 missiles in the possession of Hamas, as well as the existence of the tunnels (although without knowing about their scope), and bunkers, Israel’s leadership chose to deal with political issues, rather than existential ones like the capacity to launch missiles against our civilian centers and the ability to infiltrate into Israeli territory via tunnels. We could have dealt with these issues while the numbers were still small, instead of allowing them to multiply.
Now, the “Gaza Underground” has come to be understood as an existential threat to Israel. The problem has become acute and demands are heard from different government leaders that the IDF needs to remain in Gaza and “finish the job”, that is, to eliminate the tunnel threat. On the other hand, others continue to argue that we should try to work out a political solution to the present war. Even though many of the tunnels have been discovered and eliminated, many more remain and it is difficult to conceive that they will be eliminated through any form of political agreement.
Neither of these alternatives is good. But, we cannot avoid dealing with the problem. To do so only delays the inevitable – another war in a short period of time, more sophisticated weaponry and a more determined enemy. In order to deal with the problem, at least for the foreseeable future, all of the tunnels need to be destroyed. This would require an extensive ground offensive into the heart of the Gaza Strip. This is not a good scenario and would play into the hands of Hamas.
As it is, with each passing day, more gruesome pictures of non-combatants fill both the t.v. screens and the reports of the MSM. Each day produces more anti-Israel demonstrations. But, each day increases the risk for additional fatalities on the part of Israel and more war wounded. The funerals of our fallen soldiers have drawn huge attendance and demonstrated how we agonize over the loss of each one of them. A major ground offensive would require the call-up of thousands more of reservists.
Hamas wants to draw us in. Our government wants to deal with the problems of the missiles and the tunnels without being drawn in. Hamas thrives on the death of its citizens. Israel rejoices with each life saved. The leadership of Hamas encourages its people to die and uses its citizens as protection for its combatants. Israel sends its soldiers to protect its citizens. There is a major difference in thinking and in values, both of which shape the actions of the two sides. In the meantime, Israel is continuing with its present course of finding and dealing with one tunnel at a time. Many tunnels require physical entry by the IDF in order to destroy them. Hamas has clearly booby-trapped many of the tunnels and is anticipating the entry of Israeli soldiers, in order to blow up the tunnels and the soldiers along with them. Israel is aware of this, but is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It must eliminate the tunnels, but wants to minimise jeopardizing the lives of its soldiers.
The Parallel War
Israel is not only fighting a war on the ground, one which is taking time, but is producing positive results, notwithstanding the increasing number of deaths of our soldiers. There is another war that it is facing, a war of no less importance – that of world opinion.
The media has had a field day during the past week, with lots of issues to choose from to fill up their daily quota of words. Some of the ones that came to the forefront this week: internal riots of pro-“Palestinian” groups in Judea and Samaria, as well as in major cities in Israel. Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations abroad are nothing new, but they have become considerably more violent, particularly in Europe, although the Americas are not exempted from such demonstrations. Protesters throughout the Muslim world continue to call for Israel’s destruction.
In addition, the media jumped all over the decision this week of the “Human Wrongs Council” of that great un-organization, the United Nations. As many already know, this world body has demonstrated once again its anti-Israel slant and is looking to conduct another investigation of Israel for alleged war crimes. I guess that inasmuch as a “Palestinian” spokesman has already admitted that Hamas is guilty of war crimes, the U.N. doesn’t need to conduct an investigation of Hamas! People in Gaza are given more time to vacate targeted premises than some of the civilians in Israel. If the citizens refuse to listen to the Hamas to remain and be killed, Hamas savagely beats them. Then, Hamas complains of our responses to their attacks upon us. The former Commander of all British forces in Afghanistan has testified before the U.N. (regarding Operation Cast Lead in 2009) to the fact that the IDF is the most moral military in the world, and continues to say that today. In an interview with one of Israel’s major television stations in mid-week. “No other army in the world has even done more than Israel is doing now to save the lives of innocent civilians in a combat zone…[When a demand is made upon Israel by the world community to do more], perhaps Israel should ask what more it can do.” Despite testimonies in favour of Israel, the U.N. continues to show its prejudice against Israel by requesting yet another investigation. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
These issues and more need to be discussed, as they all are slanted by the main stream media against Israel.
I will end at this point. My oldest son just received notice from one of his classmates in Ben Gurion University of the Negev that her brother was killed in Gaza during the night.
Please pray for wisdom for the leaders of Israel to make the right decisions for the nation.
Pray for wisdom for the leaders of the IDF to be able to plan and put into operation whatever is necessary to get the job done, while minimizing the risk to our soldiers.
Pray for our soldiers, that they would go out in peace and return in peace, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Some have seen and experienced events that will remain with them until the end of their days.
Pray for a national spirit of unity, where the people would trust and support the decisions of the government in pursuing what needs to be done in order to remove the tunnel and missile threats from our citizens.
And that brings us to the end of Shabbat.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” (Psalm 27:1-3)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.