On Sunday, Israel released a significant video showcasing the intricate tunnel system utilized by Hamas in Gaza for transporting individuals and weaponry. Within the video, Hamas’ political leader, Yahya Sinwar, highlighted the vast 300-mile extent of the underground maze and claimed it is laden with a multitude of traps.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), responsible for releasing the video, criticized the tunnels, which are laden with traps, as a deceptive strategy of Hamas to shield itself behind a massive civilian population. Numerous tunnel entrances are situated in civilian locations such as homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals.
With an anticipated comprehensive invasion of Gaza on the horizon, the IDF has expressed its determination to dismantle this extensive network, intending to neutralize the militant group and liberate over 200 hostages. As stated by the IDF, eradicating Hamas necessitates the destruction of this terror tunnel network.
First identified in 2006, these tunnels initially served as a conduit to sidestep the Israeli embargo on Gaza during Hamas’s early days in power. Though initially facilitating vital supplies to the Palestinian populace in Gaza, the tunnels were subsequently militarized by Hamas for launching assaults on Israel.
Reportedly, portions of the tunnel system extend to depths of up to 130 feet, offering a haven for militants from Israeli aerial bombardments. As reported by the Washington Post, journalists have been previously escorted by the IDF through sections of these tunnels, revealing them to be advanced constructs, complete with concrete fortifications, electrical provisions, and transportation carts.
Expert analysis from Bruce Hoffman of the US Council on Foreign Relations speculates that the hostages, taken by Hamas during their October 7th raid in Israel, are likely confined within these tunnels. Hoffman has also cautioned about the possibility of encountering numerous ambushes within the tunnels during rescue operations, including the potential threat of booby-trapped hostages, as discussed in a recent CFR briefing.
Nevertheless, to counter these underground challenges, the IDF might employ a novel tool termed “sponge bombs.” These innovative explosive devices are designed to rapidly expand and solidify upon deployment, enabling Israeli forces to block tunnel segments effectively. Such a tactic would confine Hamas militants and provide Israeli troops the advantage of navigating the labyrinth while searching for hostages.