On Monday, day 73 of Israel’s war with Hamas, the IDF revealed the largest-ever Hamas attack tunnel discovered by the military, in the northern Gaza Strip, close to the Erez border crossing with Israel, but not inside Israeli territory.
The tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip is wide enough for a large car to pass through, reinforced with concrete and fitted with electrical wiring. And at least one section of the tunnel — which Israel says is the largest it has discovered in Gaza so far — is within walking distance of an Israeli border crossing.
The IDF took a group of reporters into the tunnel on Friday. Its size and complexity, three Israeli defense officials said, show the scale of the challenge they face as they try to meet their goal of wiping out Hamas, which they say has built a network of tunnels throughout Gaza to allow it to evade and attack Israeli forces.
The size of this tunnel, and its location — coming within about 400 meters, or a quarter of a mile, of the border, the Israeli military said — also underscored Israel’s failure to identify and prevent such a structure from being built. But the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, who was among the officials who conducted the tour, said that the tunnel was proof that Hamas had diverted building materials, especially concrete, meant to be used to ease the lives of Gazans, for military purposes.
“This tunnel had been built for years,” he said. “Millions of dollars have been spent on this tunnel, hundreds of tons of cement, a lot of electricity — instead of spending all of them — the money, the cement, the electricity — on hospitals, schools, housing and other needs of the Gazans.”
But even in that short section, it was possible to see that the tunnel continued a great distance ahead and that underfoot, vertical shafts extended down from the main tube, which Israeli officers said suggested the tunnel connected to a larger network.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is visiting Israel today and may announce efforts to stymie Yemen’s Houthi rebel group, which is targeting shipping in the Red Sea.
The Times of Israel confirmed that Israel’s reported attempt to pump seawater into parts of the vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza was a success.
Mossad chief David Barnea met on Monday with CIA director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Warsaw to discuss efforts to reach a new hostage deal with Hamas, according to multiple reports in the Hebrew press. Barnea was previously widely reported to have met with Al Thani in Norway on Friday night. The Ynet news site quoted a source involved as saying the negotiations would be “long, complicated and more difficult than before.”
Qatar was a key mediator in the first hostage deal that saw 105 civilians released from Hamas captivity in Gaza over the course of seven days in late November.
It is believed that 129 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive. Four hostages were released prior to the first truce, and one was rescued by troops.
The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages who were mistakenly killed by the military on Friday have been returned to Israel. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 20 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.
Following the deaths of the three hostages at the hands of IDF troops in Gaza last week, several reports on Saturday night indicated that Israel was looking to boost efforts to reach a new hostage deal with Hamas. Citing Egyptian officials, Kan news alleged on Saturday evening that Egyptian and Qatari officials had offered a new deal to Hamas in recent days that would see the release of elderly and sick men and the remaining women and children in exchange for the release of senior Palestinian prisoners. It was not clear whether the offer was made after consultations with Israel. Kan said Hamas had so far not responded to the proposal.
Israeli forces found 5 million shekels ($1.4 million) inside the Jabalia residence of a senior Hamas terrorist, the IDF announced on Monday. The money was located in suitcases, along with a cache of weapons, the army added. Israel’s war against Hamas, continued on Monday, with the IDF striking more than 150 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours, from the air, sea, and land. The IDF’s 646th Paratrooper Brigade attacked terrorist infrastructure on Sunday, locating weapons, explosives and RPG-type rockets and combat equipment. A stockpile of mortars and ammunition was found in a basement at the same site. In addition, the forces located and destroyed shafts and pits in the area used for firing rockets at Israeli territory. A terrorist cell was eliminated by an attack helicopter in the Khan Yunis area. Israeli Navy forces struck Hamas targets in support of ground forces.
Clearly after 10 weeks of war while the indications are that Israel will achieve most of its objectives, the toll remains high with new military casualties reported on a daily basis. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers and siblings who have paid the ultimate price are the true tzadikim, holy people, who have earned a place in the highest reaches of heaven. May their memories be blessed and may the bloodshed end sooner rather than later.