The IDF has not yet located and destroyed all of Hamas’ terror tunnels, but the consensus about the intent behind them is quite clear. On Monday IDF forces thwarted another terror attack after two groups of Hamas operatives infiltrated from Gaza to Israel through a tunnel, apparently on their way to carry out a mass casualty attack at Kibbutz Erez and/or Nir Am.
Israel Matzav Since Operation Protective Edge began, IDF forces have foiled several other attempted attacks by Hamas near Kibbutz Sufa and Kibbutz Nirim that also made use of attack tunnels, while uncovering and blowing up dozens of tunnels in Gaza along its border with Israel. These tunnels penetrate deep into Israeli territory, sometimes reaching a length of 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles).
The attack tunnels create a new equation in the power balance between Israel and Hamas. They give Hamas an ability to infiltrate Israel and carry out strategic attacks involving mass killing, along with an ability to launch missiles from locations concealed within civilian population centers that serve, in effect, as human shields. Should Hamas retain in the future 20 tunnels, and dispatch 50 operatives in each, they could deploy 1,000 men behind Israeli lines. The tunnels would allow Hamas to wreak havoc if they are left in place.
Hizbullah’s tactics, learned from Iran, have been replicated in Gaza, particularly the use of the tunnels to provide “breathing space” in waging the military campaign. The Hamas-Hizbullah-Iranian aim is to cause as much harm as possible to the civilian population and weaken Israel by damaging its economy. Like Hizbullah, Hamas in the current round has tried to strike strategic targets in Israel and inflict mass casualties, including the nuclear reactor in Dimona, the chemical plants in Haifa, and Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Despite the reconciliation agreement with Fatah and the establishment of the unity government, one of Hamas’s objectives in the war is to ignite another intifada on the West Bank aimed ultimately at the toppling of Palestinian Authority rule and instituting a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian national movement. This current round of fighting highlights the importance of continued Israeli security control of key areas of the West Bank to prevent a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority, and the maintenance of minimal defensible borders should a Palestinian state be established.
Then there’s this assessment from Times of Israel’s David Horovitz.
The prime danger, the second half of the terror strategy that has required us to send our troops into Gaza, has turned out to be Hamas’s cross-border tunneling, the scale of which was not publicly known until the last few days. Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog spoke Tuesday of the “unimaginable” mega-terror attack Hamas is believed to have been planning — sending hundreds of terrorists swarming through those tunnels to massacre Israelis in the Gaza-envelope kibbutzim and moshavim. Netanyahu said Sunday that the intended Hamas attacks on kibbutz kindergartens, homes and dining halls would have been “catastrophic.”
The real battle is taking place in those Gaza border neighborhoods — Shejaiya, Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and others — where thousands of Israeli solders are searching, house to house, for the tunnel entrances. Dozens of openings have been found — multiple entrances to the underground passages that also have multiple exits on the Israeli side. Time after time, Hamas gunmen have sought to surprise the Israeli soldiers by rising out of the earth from these openings, and firing. They’ve been largely unsuccessful.
But the most terrifying detail is being uncovered that Hamas had a plan to attack all the settlements and kibbutzim in the area this year on Rosh Hashanah with an invasion of over 200 terrorists into almost all the settlements in the area. The tunnels went under the kibbutzim under the kindergartens and dining rooms and other areas within the kibbutz perimeters. They planned to occupy the whole area and kill as many Israeli as possible.
This could have been the worst terror attack in the history of terrorism. Thousands of people, including women and children would have been slaughtered in this planned attack.
Hamas is shelling the field hospital built by IDF at Erez Crossing to treat wounded Palestinians.
— Yossi Melman (@yossi_melman) July 23, 2014