The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the IDF believes it has nearly accomplished its mission of destroying the tunnel system it took Hamas 5 years to build and will begin withdrawing perhaps as soon as Sunday.
The IDF has destroyed Hamas’s flagship terrorism project; its network of cross-border tunnels that snuck under the border into Israel. The military also began to pull its forces out of the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.
Hamas has spent five years preparing this strategic threat; the IDF wrecked 31 tunnels in two weeks. By Sunday, all of the tunnels the IDF knew about, or discovered during the offensive, will be destroyed. A few tunnels that Israel doesn’t know about may remain intact.
Many of the underground passages were designed to send heavily armed murder squads into Israeli villages for killing sprees, and attack army positions from behind. They were filled with weapons, explosives, and equipment, enabling terrorists dressed in civilian clothing to disappear into a shaft in Gaza, and emerge in Israel, disguised as IDF soldiers and fully equipped to carry out a mass casualty attack. The IDF has discovered motorcycles in some of the tunnels, which were earmarked by Hamas for rapid raids into Israel and subsequent retreats back into Gaza.
Currently, inside the Strip, the army has gained good control of the areas it is maneuvering in. Despite very difficult fighting that has raged on the ground, which included heavy RPG, anti-tank, and automatic fire by Hamas cells, and despite the painful price Israel has paid thus far, the army is very close to achieving this key goal of its offensive.
In the big majority of cases where the IDF clashed with Hamas, the battle ended with the terrorists being killed, wounded, or with their surrender.
No one in the army expected the fighting to be easy, or one-way. And no one expected all of the battles to end without painful losses on the Israeli side, when tens of thousands of soldiers clashed with Hamas’s battalions of guerrillas.
Similarly, the intelligence available to the ground forces has been superb, but it is unrealistic to expect a 100% success rate. Planned ambushes, such as the one carried out by Hamas in Rafah on Friday, which led to the kidnapping of an officer, were part of the known threats facing the army in Gaza. Not all threats can be dealt with successfully on the battlefield. Such is the nature of war.
The Egyptians claim to have destroyed almost 1400 tunnels used to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza.
It’s going to be very hard for Hamas to rebuild Gaza. The Israelis estimate that more than 800,000 tons of concrete was used to construct those tunnels, and the supply will probably be severely restricted. What could Hamas have done with all that material besides build tunnels used to murder Israeli citizens?
Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example—after all, noted military strategists like Jon Stewart have spent last week proclaiming that Gaza’s citizens had nowhere to hide from Israel’s artillery—Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.
All that building material could have gone to constructing a nation. Instead, Hamas chose to use it for nefarious purposes.
Hamas took the billions in aid dollars it received and built tunnels to attack Israel. Will the US and other western countries who bankrolled these tunnels learn their lesson and target the aid more carefully?
Don’t bet on it.