It will take another 6 months but the Gaza tunnels will disappear

The Israeli armed forces continue to destroy the underground network of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to cut off all supplies and logistical bases for the two terrorist groups in Gaza. From Rafah to Gaza City, the missions to dismantle the tunnels continue without stopping also because the task is immense. The head of the armed forces, Herzi Halevi, stressed during an inspection near Rafah that “it is an operation that takes time”. The army announced that in this area about 1,000 terrorists have been eliminated, including commanders and heads of Hamas battalions. According to the daily newspaper Israel Hayom, the soldiers discovered dozens of tunnels that reach from Gaza across the border into Egyptian territory, some built on three underground levels, a discovery that surprised the Israeli military and security forces. This incredible and sophisticated infrastructure was built over the course of years, eluding both Israeli surveillance and Egyptian control. The Washington Post reports that along the Philadelphia Corridor, the Tsahal has discovered and destroyed 14 tunnels, with 20 more still in operation. Who helped build these tunnels? There is no doubt that engineers from the People’s Republic of China’s military helped build them, which tells us that there is still much to learn about October 7 and beyond.

The future of this area is a source of tension between Jerusalem and Cairo, where a possible truce is being negotiated in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi views the control of the Rafah crossing and the surrounding area as Israeli interference, while the military authorities and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu see it as a necessary step to stop smuggling between Egypt and Gaza. Despite the cooling of relations, security cooperation between Egypt and Israel continues, with Egypt maintaining the role of mediator in the negotiations. Egyptian President al-Sisi met with CIA chief William Burns to discuss the terms of a possible ceasefire, and an Egyptian security delegation will travel to Qatar to bring Hamas and Israel closer together.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army’s effort is not only focused on Rafah. In Gaza City, military operations are also aimed at dismantling the terrorists’ underground infrastructure. In the eastern neighborhood of Shejaiya, six tunnels were demolished, one of which, 2.5 kilometers long and described as central to Islamic Jihad operations, was used by the group for command and control of the area. Laptops, weapons and intelligence material were found inside. This morning, the IDF issued a new appeal to the residents of Gaza: An appeal to all those living in Gaza City: “Safe corridors allow for rapid and uninspected movement from Gaza City to the shelters in Deir al-Balah and al-Zawaida. We inform you that Tariq Bin Ziyad Street and Omar Al-Mukhtar Street are considered safe corridors to cross and move west to Al-Rashid (Al-Bahr) Street and from there to the south. As for Al-Wahda Street and Khalil Al-Wazir Street, they are considered safe corridors to move east to Al-Zaytoun neighborhood and the city roundabout, and from there to Salah Al-Din Street in the south. Gaza City will remain a dangerous combat zone!

To take stock of the situation of the tunnels and clear the field of sensational headlines and the many superficialities that circulate on the subject, we ask Lion Udler security expert who previously worked in the ranks of the IDF. “The main fact is that the terrorist organization of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations have been working on the construction of terrorist tunnels for about 20 years, throughout the Gaza Strip, mainly on the borders with Israel and on the Philadelphia axis on the border with Egypt, no one knows exactly how many there are and where they are located. Since the beginning of the war, the tunnels known to the IDF were destroyed, mainly those adjacent to the border that posed an imminent threat to the State of Israel, as the army went deeper, the terrorist tunnels not very close to the border were also destroyed. The number of tunnels on the Philadelphia axis is particularly large, not all of them belong to terrorist organizations, there are also private tunnels, built by residents of Rafah, it is a real business, through these tunnels everything was smuggled, from cigarettes to cars and any goods that could be sold.”

What are the difficulties of this operation?

“The entrance shafts of these tunnels are located in private homes, in order to hide their existence, even from the terrorist organization of Hamas, to find them you have to enter every house in Rafah. Dozens of tunnels have already been discovered on the Philadelphia axis, some have been destroyed, others filled with concrete, so as not to risk blowing up Egyptian territory.”

How long does it take for the total destruction of what is called the “Metro” of the Gaza Strip?

«The IDF estimates that it will take several more months before the smuggling tunnels to Egypt are fully identified and destroyed, at least 6 months according to some officials.

In the rest of the Gaza Strip the situation is complex, the IDF has not yet maneuvered in some areas, for example in Deir Al Balah, in the center of the Gaza Strip, a large-scale maneuver has not been carried out, and therefore it is assumed that there are still intact and functioning tunnels there, which however do not put the State of Israel at risk, because it is close to the sea and not to the border. In Sajaiya instead, where a large-scale ground operation is currently taking place, 6 terrorist tunnels have been found and destroyed in recent days. My estimate is that throughout 2024 and for a good part of 2025, we will have to continue to search for and destroy tunnels in the Gaza Strip, despite the good results so far, there is still a lot to do”.