Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

By Dan Williams

ZEELIM GROUND FORCES BASE, Israel (Reuters) – After finding what they described as the doorway to a Hamas tunnel below an evacuated hospital in northern Gaza, Israeli military engineers stuffed the passage with exploding gel and hit the detonator.

The blast engulfed the constructing and despatched smoke spewing out of at the very least three factors alongside a close-by highway in a district of the town of Beit Hanoun, surveillance footage confirmed.

“The gel unfold out and exploded no matter they’d been ready for us within the tunnel,” a military officer instructed reporters at a briefing at Zeelim Floor Forces Base in southern Israel.

Clearing the tunnels is a crucial a part of Israel’s army marketing campaign in opposition to Hamas within the Gaza Strip in response to the Palestinian militant group’s lethal assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

When not utilizing munitions to map out the bunkers, entry shafts and tunnels which either side say run for a whole bunch of kilometres (miles) below Gaza, the military opts for tracker robots and different know-how operated remotely.

The officer couldn’t be recognized below the foundations of the briefing, and declined to offer additional particulars of below-ground fight which he stated was a piece in progress. He didn’t identify the hospital in Beit Hanoun.

“I feel there are different strategies being developed,” he stated. “That’s the place creativity and innovation come in useful.”

In Beit Hanoun, the place his forces have been working, some gunmen had stormed the Israeli army from tunnel shafts and had been killed, he stated.

Israel’s coverage, he stated, was to not ship personnel within the different route to confront Palestinian fighters who would have a defender’s benefit in slim, darkish, under-ventilated and collapsible passages with which they have been acquainted.

“We do not need to go down there. We all know that they left us loads of side-bombs (improvised explosives units),” he stated.

One such bomb, rigged to the duvet of a tunnel-access shaft at floor stage, had killed 4 particular forces reservists final week.

WEB OF TUNNELS

Hamas has tunnels for assault, smuggling and storage, safety sources say. Dozens of shafts can result in every tunnel at depths of between 20 and 80 metres (65-260 toes).

Destroying a shaft is comparatively straightforward and fast, the officer stated, including: “Any platoon can do it.”

The Israeli army stated final week that 130 shafts had been destroyed up to now, however gave no determine for demolished tunnels.

The tunnels are tougher to sort out. The officer stated a number of tonnes of the exploding gel – on which he declined to provide any technical particulars, aside from to say it’s introduced in by truck – are required for each few hundred metres of tunnel.

After-action evaluation is troublesome. The officer stated round half of the shafts in his Beit Hanoun operation zone had been destroyed, however acknowledged that these will be rebuilt.

“It is onerous to say what number of tunnels (are destroyed) as a result of they’re all linked,” he stated.

Hamas has denied utilizing hospitals as cowl for such tunnels. It has dismissed assertions by Israel that it has a command centre below Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, which Israeli forces entered on Wednesday.

EFFORTS TO AVOID ENDANGERING HOSTAGES

Hamas took some 240 individuals again to Gaza as captives within the Oct. 7 assault through which about 1,200 individuals have been killed, Israel has stated. One in all a handful of hostages launched stated she and at the very least two dozen others had been held in a tunnel.

The military officer stated care was being taken to not endanger tunnels which will comprise hostages.

“We generally get indications that this (a goal) is perhaps associated to hostages. After which we all know to not assault it except we get an approval (that it’s clear)”, he stated

Like a lot of northern Gaza, Beit Hanoun has been emptied of civilians, who fled south below orders from Israel because it despatched in floor troops to attempt to wipe out Hamas.

“The one inhabitants left is the terrorists,” the officer stated, including that generally a secondary explosion set off by a tunnel destruction blast “will convey down a constructing a couple of hundred metres away”.

Palestinian gunmen taken captive have offered Israel with intelligence on the tunnel community, he stated, however this data has been restricted.

“Most of them do not find out about the entire metropolis. However they know their very own village, they know fairly properly the tunnel system,” the officer stated.

The officer stated it might take months to destroy Gaza’s total underground community.

“I feel it is extra difficult than the New York Metropolis subway,” he stated.

(Modifying by Timothy Heritage)

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