Gaza tunnels take on great importance for Israel’s ground forces | ET REALITY

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In an interview he recalled the final days of the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State fighters hidden in a series of tunnels in 2017. “Our Iraqi soldiers were clearing, using bulldozers, ISIS fighters who were literally buried in the rubble,” he said. “It was very, very brutal.”

Tunnels have been a part of life in Gaza for years, but they multiplied dramatically after 2007, when Hamas took control of the enclave and Israel tightened its blockade. The Palestinians responded by building hundreds of tunnels to smuggle food, goods, people and weapons.

The tunnels cost Hamas about $3 million each, according to the Israeli military. Some are built with prefabricated concrete and iron, and have medical rooms to provide assistance to wounded combatants. Others have spaces 40 meters underground where people can hide for months.

In Israel, people often refer to the tunnel system as “lower Gaza” or “subway.”

Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old woman who was held hostage by Hamas for 17 days this month, described being marched for kilometers through a “web” of tunnels. She told reporters Tuesday that Hamas militants led her through wet, dank underground hallways to “a large room where about 25 abductees were gathered.”

After two or three hours, they put five people from their kibbutz in a separate room, he said.

At a news conference on Friday, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, accused Hamas of building tunnels and other facilities beneath Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the territory’s largest medical center. He played an intercepted audio recording and shows an illustration of the underground complex.

General Votel, who visited a tunnel controlled by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah near the border with Israel, said he was “surprised by the level of effort that goes into creating these things.”

“This wasn’t just holes in the ground, it was architecture,” he said. “They were linked to rooms and constructed in a way that would resist shocks to the surface.”

As Hamas expanded the underground system, it hid the entrances to the tunnels in houses and other small structures on the Egyptian side of the border, said Joel Roskin, a professor of geology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, who studied the tunnels during his stay in Israel. military. These tunnels allowed the smuggling of goods from Egypt.

The tunnel system extends to the northern border with Israel.

A decade ago, Egypt launched an effort to destroy tunnels along its border, dumping sewage into some and leveling homes that concealed entrances, Roskin said.

Israel has limited visibility into tunnel activity on the Egyptian side of the border, he added. Many of the networks end in northern Sinai, but the Egyptian government has rarely allowed Israeli researchers or government officials to visit the area, so it is unclear how many cross-border tunnels remain.

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