The Gaza tunnels are one of the greatest obstacles to the IDF in destroying Hamas and rescuing the hostages. Given that Hamas will never voluntarily release “the ace” they are holding with the hostages, Israel has the unenviable task of not only “smoking out” and dealing with the terrorists but also simultaneously rescuing the hostages. This seems like a near “mission impossible,” but with the right “smoke” and the ingenuity and bravery of the IDF, along with G-d’s guiding hand, there is still hope.
What are terror tunnels?
Similar to the tunnels and guerrilla tactics used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, the Hamas tunnel system, referred to as the “Gaza Metro,” enables Hamas to hide and conduct hit-and-run attacks with rocket fire into Israel population centers and anti-tank missiles, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, AK-47s, and other weapons’ fire at Israeli troops and civilians. The terror tunnels also enable infiltration into Israel to murder, rape, terrorize, and abduct innocent civilians as well as soldiers.
The situation is made all the more dangerous by the terrorist sponsorship of the tunnels and rockets by the radical Islamist Iranian regime, which is looking to destroy Israel, confront the United States, and build a dangerous regional caliphate to counter Western civilization.
The tunnels house command and control rooms, intelligence headquarters, supplies, military workshops, and tens of thousands of terrorists. They also provide a hiding place away from Israeli surveillance drones and satellites for the 240+ Israeli hostages that Hamas abducted on October 7.
The reinforced concrete tunnels run as far as 311 miles and are up to 82 feet deep to prevent their destruction or collapse in bombing or demolition. Further, by now we know the entrances are typically well camouflaged and hidden under schools, hospitals, mosques, and apartment buildings. Moreover, they use human shields in these sensitive locations to try to prevent Israel from discovering or destroying them. The tunnels are built in a vast spider’s web labyrinth to create blind corners, booby trap them, and disorient Israeli soldiers that may try to locate them or navigate their way through. Further, the Hamas tunnels often run from Gaza (or Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon) directly into Israel.
History of Hamas and Hezbollah Tunnels
In 2006, Hamas used such tunnels to enter Israel, kill two IDF soldiers, wound five, and abduct Gilad Shalit, who was held prisoner in Gaza for five years and only released in 2011 upon Israel handing over 1,027 terrorist prisoners to free him.
Subsequently, in 2014, Israel discovered and destroyed 32 tunnels, 14 of which went from Gaza into southern Israel. Similarly, in 2018–2019, Israel found and neutralized another six tunnels from Lebanon into north Israel.
In 2021, Israel did two important things to combat the tunnels. First, they bombed a portion of the tunnel network, destroying about 62 miles of it. Second, Israel completed a 40-mile advanced wall around the Gaza border, including underground barriers with many sensors and surveillance, to try and thwart future tunnels into Israel at a cost of about a billion dollars. However, Hamas overran the barrier on October 7, 2023, in a brutal surprise attack on Simchat Torah that killed 1,400 Israelis and took over 240 hostages.
In the Vietnam War, the U.S. employed “tunnel rats,” who were small and wiry soldiers who would attempt to infiltrate and clear the dark and claustrophobic tunnels. Many died horrific deaths underground from deadly traps, venomous snakes, and close-quarter hand-to-hand combat. Now, the IDF is up against such tunnels that have many added modern features, like rail systems for quickly moving rockets and other weapons to employ against Israel, as well as electricity for lights and ventilation systems, as well as ample supplies of food, water, fuel, and weapons.
Smoking Out the Terrorists and Rescuing the Hostages
In synagogue today, one of my neighbors said that Israel is going to flush the Hamas terrorists out of the tunnels with water, similar to what Egypt did on their border with Gaza previously. Of course, the complications with this or using any other substance (e.g., flammable or explosive materials) to flood, smoke out, implode or explode, or otherwise try to vacate or destroy the tunnels are the hundreds of hostages that Hamas has dispersed and is holding down there.
Another option is to pump some non-lethal but irritant or disabling chemicals underground to flush out the terrorists. Of course, this would work better if the terrorists either didn’t detect it (by smell, sight, or taste) or after they exhausted their air supplies and/or the filters in their gas masks, so the chemical infiltration would likely need to last for more than 24 hours. Another less “irritating” option could be to use sleeping gas, hallucinogens, or other drugs to dull, disorient, or deaden the terrorists from knowing what was going on or being able to respond effectively. This would be an especially suitable response since the Hamas terrorists were found to have used amphetamines (i.e., stimulants) to aid in their vile attack on Israelis earlier this month.
In the end, the IDF must kill and/or capture between 15 and 50 thousand Hamas terrorists and their ring leaders that are hiding in or about the tunnels, destroy their infrastructure, disable their mobility and ability to act, and most importantly, rescue the hostages. The only way that I see this can be done is to locate enough of the openings and “smoke out” the terrorists so they are incapable of defending themselves or harming the hostages. This will need to be done stealthily and at the time and place of the IDF’s choosing so they can storm the tunnels quickly in an Entebbe-style raid, but on a scale never before seen or even conceptualized in the history of warfare. With G-d’s help, Israel will succeed!