Hamas operates the world’s largest tunnel network after North Korea. Its network includes 1,300 tunnels. Experts believe that people held hostage by Hamas may have been kept inside these tunnels.
Fierce fighting continues between Hamas and Israel. Thousands of people have lost their lives so far in this conflict. However, everything is not going to stop here. While Hamas is talking about Israel stopping the attacks to release the hostages, Israel is preparing a ground attack to destroy Hamas.
Israel has been preparing to enter Gaza for several days. However, it faces the problem of long tunnels built by Hamas. This is the reason why the Israeli Army is repeatedly postponing ground attacks in Gaza. Let us know why Israel is not able to launch a ground attack in Gaza.
Hamas operates the world’s second-largest tunnel network
By attacking on October 7, the terrorist organization Hamas caused huge damage to Israel. It entered Israel and created a massacre and took more than 220 people hostage. Since then Israel announced to eradicate Hamas. In this context, the Israeli army is preparing to launch a ground attack to destroy Hamas’ bases in the Gaza Strip.
However, military experts believe that the network of tunnels built by Hamas could pose a major challenge to the IDF if there is a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Israeli media reports claim that Hamas operates the world’s largest tunnel network after North Korea. Its network consists of 1,300 tunnels, spanning a total of about 500 kilometers. Some of these tunnels are located up to 70 meters underground.
According to reports, most of these tunnels are just two meters high and two meters wide. Experts believe that people held hostage by Hamas may have been held within these tunnels, which are likely used as storage locations for weapons, food, water, and fuel. Researchers who previously investigated Hamas’ tunnel network believe that some of the organization’s commanders are stationed within these tunnels.
Why did tunnels become a challenge for Israel?
Experts say that in the event of an Israeli ground attack in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels will further complicate the war situation. John Spencer, a former US Army officer, said the challenge is unique in Gaza with its underground tunnels. Spencer said the vast and expanding tunnel network is a problem for which there is no perfect solution.
Spencer said that it is through the tunnels that Hamas moves fighters safely and seamlessly between different battle sites.
Mike Martin, a war psychologist at King’s College London, said that because of these tunnels, Hamas is able to neutralize Israel’s mastery in firepower, strategy, technology, and organization. The IDF therefore faces challenges with regard to military operations within civilian areas.
Tunnels were built for the smuggling of goods
The tunnels in the Gaza Strip were initially built to smuggle goods in and out of the coastal area and Egypt. Over time, due to increased Israeli aerial surveillance via drones and other electronic spying devices, Hamas began to expand the tunnel network. However, the IDF realized the danger and complexity of these tunnels only after the military campaign in Gaza in 2014. This led the Israeli government to begin construction of an underground barrier along the Gaza Strip border to prevent infiltration through tunnels.
Experts say tunnels are difficult to detect because they can be built beneath structures. There are different ways to identify them, such as using ground penetrating radar and techniques to measure magnetic, thermal, and acoustic fingerprints.
Expert Daphne Richmond-Barack has said that tear gas or chemicals have been used to eradicate tunnels, but these methods are currently illegal.
Experts say that these tunnels can be bombed while Israel has ‘bunker-buster bombs’ which are designed to penetrate underground. However, this option is difficult due to the dense population of the Gaza Strip.
Is there no technology to destroy the tunnels?
According to researchers at the RAND Corporation, Israel has used ‘precision-guided munitions’ to close these tunnels in the past, but the technique was not very successful. The researchers said fighting within the tunnels is challenging because they are very dark and cold, made worse by gunfire while using weapons inside kicks up dust and can be very dangerous. Because of these risks, IDF soldiers were previously allowed to enter the tunnels only after being secured by special teams.
Since 2014 the IDF has deployed specialized combat units to these tunnels. It has trained around simulated tunnels and has learned to use special sensors using robots and dogs to sense events within the tunnels and specific elements to fight within them.
Experts said Israel would need to engage in a long-term and extensive air and ground operation to destroy this underground infrastructure.