ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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ToI in Gaza

On Gaza civilian evacuation road, IDF uncovers largest Hamas rocket factory to date

Multiple sites along and beneath Strip’s Salah a-Din main highway in Bureij used by terror group to manufacture rocket fuel, explosives, projectiles’ bodies, and store them

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

  • A Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • A soldier guards the entrance to an underground Hamas rocket fuel lab in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A soldier guards the entrance to an underground Hamas rocket fuel lab in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • The entrance to a tunnel in a Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    The entrance to a tunnel in a Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • A Hamas long-range rocket depot in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A Hamas long-range rocket depot in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • Col. Or Vollozinsky, the commander of the 188th Brigade, shows reporters the entrance to an underground Hamas rocket fuel lab in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    Col. Or Vollozinsky, the commander of the 188th Brigade, shows reporters the entrance to an underground Hamas rocket fuel lab in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • Salah a-Din Road in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    Salah a-Din Road in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • A large explosion is seen in central Gaza's Bureij, which killed six IDF combat engineers, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A large explosion is seen in central Gaza's Bureij, which killed six IDF combat engineers, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • A Hamas long-range rocket depot in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A Hamas long-range rocket depot in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • A Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    A Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza's Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

BUREIJ, Gaza Strip — Along and beneath the Gaza Strip’s main north-south highway, the Israel Defense Forces on Monday revealed where the Hamas terror group manufactured its long-range rockets that have been used to attack Israeli cities in recent years.

Troops of the 188th Armored Brigade and Golani Infantry Brigade operating in the Bureij camp of central Gaza in recent weeks discovered what the IDF has described as a “terror stronghold of weapons production.”

According to the IDF, the Hamas sites, along a kilometer and a half (1 mile) of Salah a-Din road in Bureij, represent the largest rocket manufacturing plant found so far in the Strip.

Media outlets, including The Times of Israel, were given a tour of several of the facilities on Monday, from an underground rocket engine production lab to a warehouse where the body tubes of the projectiles were built, to a storage facility.

All of the sites were located within the vicinity of Salah a-Din, which had been declared by the IDF as a humanitarian route for Palestinians to flee from northern Gaza to its south during the early stages of the war.

Col. Or Vollozinsky, the commander of the 188th Brigade, said the area was “a chain of terror factories… on the main road, and under the homes of civilians.”

Salah a-Din Road in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Around a dozen tunnel entrances were found in the area, along with the headquarters of Hamas’s al-Bureij Battalion, which Vollozinsky’s forces recently captured.

Inside a seemingly unremarkable building in the area, the soldiers found what appeared to be a waiting room with couches and a bathroom, and in the next room was a staircase leading down into a tunnel.

Inside the tunnel, which goes down some 20 meters, forces found a large chemicals lab used to manufacture explosives and rocket engines, according to Vollozinsky.

Col. Or Vollozinsky, the commander of the 188th Brigade, shows reporters the entrance to an underground Hamas rocket fuel lab in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Pointing to a bag containing a chemical used by Hamas to manufacture rocket fuel, Vollozinsky said troops found hundreds of similar bags inside the underground lab, where Hamas made “a lot of explosives for the rockets for flight into Israel.”

He said that the underground lab also led to the other tunnels they had discovered in the area, and that the site was likely built over several years. “To build such a factory takes a lot of time; [Hamas] managed to maintain this achievement for a long time,” Vollozinsky said.

Asked whether the IDF had intelligence on the site before the ground operation, Vollozinsky told The Times of Israel that forces had information about the general area, but not the exact location.

“To find the tunnels, you need to do a bit of work, but we are experienced after three months, and we know where to look. We got information on a strategic Hamas factory in the area,” he said.

Col. Or Vollozinsky, the commander of the 188th Brigade, speaks to reporters in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The next site journalists were allowed to tour was a warehouse with several lathes and other heavy machinery, used by Hamas to build the long-range rockets, as well as other munitions, including mortars and explosive devices.

Inside the warehouse was yet another tunnel shaft, this one much deeper and with an elevator. According to the IDF, the tunnel connected to a large underground network, which was used by Hamas to distribute its weapons to all areas of the Gaza Strip.

The entrance to a tunnel in a Hamas warehouse used to manufacture rocket parts in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The last site the IDF allowed reporters to view was an above-ground and underground long-range rocket depot, where the fully built projectiles had been stored.

Numerous rockets, with ranges of 120 kilometers (75 miles) — enough to reach all of central Israel — were found stacked inside the structure.

A Hamas long-range rockets depot in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

Adjacent to the rockets was an unusually large tunnel entrance, which military officials explained was to enable the massive rockets to be stored beneath the ground.

The commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Yair Palai, whose forces were involved in uncovering the Hamas rocket production facilities, said the IDF was already in the process of demolishing all of the sites.

The commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Yair Palai, speaks to reporters in central Gaza’s Bureij, January 8, 2024. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

“You can see here the importance of the [ground] maneuver,” Palai said. “This is something you need to reach, to enter, understand what is going on, and blow it up completely, make sure nothing is left — not a rocket that can reach [Kibbutz] Kfar Aza [near the Gaza border], and not a rocket that can reach Tel Aviv or any other place.”

Palai said there still may be rocket fire at Israel even as troops defeat Hamas battalions, “but us arriving here, dealing with these lathes, weapons factories, and destroying them is critically important.”

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