May 26, 2024

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Why the Gaza Tunnels Are a Key Strategic Problem for Israel

Why the Gaza Tunnels Are a Key Strategic Problem for Israel

There is a dense underground network in the Palestinian territories where the Israeli army’s ground offensive is ongoing. According to researcher Daphné Richemond-Barak, this “sophisticated” network would greatly weaken the Jewish state’s forces.

In the sixth day of the Israeli army’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, ground fighting is intensifying as Jewish state troops encircle dense urban areas in the enclave’s north. A major strategic problem now arises: how to dislodge the enemy from the hundreds of kilometers of tunnels where Islamist fighters and weapons are hidden?

There are three types of tunnels in Gaza, the first type are offensive tunnels, which start from Gaza and end in Israel. “When you enter the Hamas tunnel, it’s pitch black.”, explains Daphne Richmond-Barak, a researcher at the American Military Academy at West Point and a professor at Reichman University in Herzliya, Israel. For ten years, he has focused his research on these Hamas tunnels. After the 2014 war she could see a tunnel.

“It’s claustrophobic! After 20 minutes you really want to leave. Now to find your way back, good luck. It’s a scary place and it’s almost existential dread.”

Daphné Richemond-Barak, researcher

At franceinfo

A very “sophisticated” network

Historical tunnels were built to the south of the enclave, allowing the transport of weapons or gasoline from Egypt. Finally, the so-called “Casa Metro” built under the cities. “It is a military base under a civilian populationDaphné Richemond-Barak explains. The scale is huge. Gaza Strip is a very small territory but these tunnels are not built in a linear fashion. They are zigzag and multi-level. They were not built yesterday. If you compare what happened with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, they had tunnels, but they probably used them for a few weeks or a few months. What’s happening in Gaza is on a whole different level, it’s very sophisticated.”

“It won’t win a war, but it will put a victorious army in a very precarious position.”

Daphné Richemond-Barak, researcher

At franceinfo

There are basically two methods to destroy these mines. Armor-piercing shells can hit a target up to 30 meters deep and are not enough to destroy an entire structure. Then submerge, but in Gaza, the earth is made of clay, which absorbs water easily, limiting the effectiveness of such a strategy.

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“To eliminate them completely, you need to know them allDaphné Richemond-Barak explains. It is almost insurmountable from a military point of view. It’s possible, but it’s not 100%.” During a sabotage operation in December 2019, Israel attacked Hezbollah tunnels in southern Lebanon. It took the army six weeks to find the 6 men. In Gaza, according to Hamas, there are 500 kilometers of underground passages.