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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The IDF Must Peel Off the Top Layer of Gaza to Reach Hamas

Filed under: Hamas, Operation Swords of Iron

The IDF Must Peel Off the Top Layer of Gaza to Reach Hamas
People stand on a collapsed Hamas military tunnel beneath a Gaza street after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

When Israeli armor and infantry enter Gaza to eradicate Hamas and its infrastructure, they will find some areas of Gaza towns in rubble. Unlike previous engagements with the terrorist entity, the Israel Defense Forces will not conduct surgical operations, issue “knock on the roof” warnings, or meticulously attempt to hit the room of a Hamas commander reported behind the fourth window on the eighth floor. Today, the building is razed – in accordance with international law.

Instead, Israel has warned broad areas and neighborhoods: “Evacuate for your own good!”

The destruction in Gaza after an Israel Air Force bombing in October 2023.
The destruction in Gaza after an Israel Air Force bombing in October 2023.

In the May 2021 fighting, the Israel Air Force carefully threaded its bombs to avoid buildings and hit roads under which Hamas tunnels were dug. It had developed sophisticated bombs to penetrate roads and tunnels and then collapse the tunnels.  Photographic evidence at the time, showed small-diameter bomb craters and large areas of road that had collapsed inward.

Here is a photo of Hamas tunnels that had collapsed inward.

Collapsed tunnels from the Gaza street level
Collapsed tunnels from the Gaza street level (Social media)

A decade ago, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, publicly declared the tunnels’ mission.

Ismail Haniyeh

Hamas had boasted over decades that it had dug “hundreds of miles” of tunnels – not the crude ones from Egypt to smuggle cigarettes, weapons, or people, or the narrow tunnels used by fighters to invade Israel quickly. These Hamas tunnels under neighborhoods and buildings were superhighways containing weapons depots, command centers, rocket launchers, and quick getaways.

Just one month after the previous war, on June 15, 2021, the Qatari Al Jazeera network broadcast a video of the extensive electrified and ventilated Hamas “Metro” tunnels, showing them repaired and fully functional. Unsurprisingly, the Hamas mouthpiece, Al Jazeera, removed the video recently. Hamas realized the harm the PR video could cause. With foresight, MEMRI saved the video: Al-Jazeera Reports On Damage To Hamas’ Tunnels In Gaza (MEMRI). The screenshots below show the extent of the tunnel network, which has undoubtedly been improved since, and display the strategic requirement to destroy the underground war machine.

Llarge-scale storage of rockets under Gaza cities
On June 5, 2021, Al Jazeera broadcast a video on the “Metro” tunnels, showing the large-scale storage of rockets under Gaza cities. (Al Jazeera screenshot)





Imagine All the People

International organizations such as the United Nations and NGOs criticize Israel for “forcing Palestinians to leave their homes” and subjecting Gaza residents to bombings. Imagine a situation where Hamas would open their deep, ventilated, and probably well-stocked tunnels to shelter civilians.  Could it happen? Never. A dead Palestinian civilian is not in Israel’s interest. But it is undoubtedly in Hamas’ interest.