Some 130 tunnel shafts in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed since Israel launched its ground operation last month to dismantle Hamas’s terror infrastructure in the Palestinian enclave, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday.
Israel has vowed to destroy the terror group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, following its surprise mass assault on southern Israel October 7, in which terrorists invaded and killed some 1,400 people mainly in their homes in civilian communities and at an outdoor music festival, amid shocking acts of brutality that they widely documented. Terrorists also took some 240 hostages of all ages, who are believed to be held captive in underground areas in Gaza.
Israel responded to the shock attack with widespread aerial strikes in the enclave and later a ground operation, during which troops of the Combat Engineering Forces have been working to clear routes for ground forces to maneuver, locate and destroy Hamas assets, including tunnels and rocket launchers.
Hamas is known to operate a vast network of tunnels underneath the enclave for smuggling goods and weapons, and moving fighters. Clearing and collapsing these tunnels has been crucial to Israel’s efforts to fight Hamas as it deepens and widens its ground offensive.
Israel has repeatedly warned that it is heavily targeting Gaza City and other areas in northern Gaza, where Hamas is believed to have its main bases of operations, including under Shifa Hospital, and extensive underground installations.
On Wednesday, the IDF said troops of the 460th Brigade with engineering forces found a number of tunnel entrances next to a structure with car batteries, which are thought to be hooked up to the tunnel’s air filtration system.
The military also said troops located and destroyed a Hamas tunnel adjacent to an UNRWA school in the Beit Hanoun area in northern Gaza.
The IDF said the 252nd Reserve Division captured the area in recent days, engaging in battles with Hamas operatives and demolishing the terror group’s infrastructure, including tunnels, compounds and launch positions. According to the military, since the beginning of the fighting, the 252nd Division has killed hundreds of Hamas operatives, including senior members, in Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya.
Also Wednesday, the military said forces of the Nahal Infantry Brigade captured a Hamas training camp in northern Gaza that included a staging ground where operatives had prepared weapons and food to carry out an attack. Within the camp, several tunnel entrances were found.
All of the tunnels were destroyed, the IDF said.
On Wednesday, a military official said in a briefing that Israel will likely see “achievements” regarding the tunnels “in the coming days,” and that if troops need to, “they will enter them.”
“Hamas has descended into an advanced and fortified underground system and built a number of protective mechanisms. Some of the tunnels can be attacked from the air,” the official said. “The ground entry of the IDF exposes the enemy’s infrastructure and the engineering corps has begun with the destruction of shafts and tunnels.”
Israel’s toll of slain soldiers since the ground offensive in Gaza rose to 33 on Wednesday with the announcement of the death of First Class Jonathan Chazor, a soldier in the Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit, who was killed fighting Hamas terrorists in northern Gaza a day earlier, and of Staff Sgt. Noam Yosef Abou, of the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion, who was killed in action earlier Wednesday. fighting against Hamas terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip.
Separately, two soldiers of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 7107th Battalion, a soldier of the 460th Brigade’s 198th Battalion and a soldier of the 460th Brigade’s 196th Battalion were seriously wounded in separate battles in Gaza Wednesday.