IDF prepares for tunnel warfare in Hamas’ underground empire

The IDF has built a subterranean training base to teach soldiers how to work together in the underground passages where Hamas fighters hide and use to set ambushes.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

One of the biggest challenges of the IDF in its current war with Hamas is the hundreds of miles of tunnels that the terror organization has built throughout the Gaza Strip and especially under Gaza City, where the Israeli army is currently concentrating its forces.

The imperative to destroy them is clear, as Hamas terrorists use them to freely move clandestinely, and to attack IDF units then disappear. They are also the hiding place and headquarters of the terrorist group’s top commanders, their weapons manufacturing centers and armories.

Channel 12 received a behind-the-scenes look into how the IDF is preparing to fight in the underground corridors.

Deep below the ground somewhere in the center of the country, the army has constructed its own tunnel network, based on the dozens it has found in Gaza over the years and carefully examined. It is the subterranean version of the mock Palestinian villages the IDF has built to prepare its troops for urban warfare.

There are dozens of miles of sophisticated passageways, taller than a man’s height and complete with lights, piping along the walls, staircases and electric generators. Other tunnels are dark, narrow and full of dust. The soldiers learn how to maneuver, lower each other from one level to the next, lay explosives and work as a team in all of them.

Read  US, UK, Canada, others suspend UNRWA funding over participation in Oct 7 massacre

They can also practice with small robots that can go ahead of them with cameras to show what lies ahead, and the specialized Oketz dog units also train there as well.

“The air is thin and staying here for a long time is difficult here,” said reporter Adva Dadon as she walked along one of the larger corridors with Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, head of the IDF’s combat engineering school and former deputy Gaza Division commander.

“There are certain parts that look exactly like this,” he told her, “with cables, ventilation systems that allow one to breathe deeply, with many twists and turns, rooms, bunkers. It’s an entire system, a real underground city that they built over 20 years.”

According to the report, as the IDF gains control over more and more territory, “it becomes clearer that all that Intelligence knew about the [Hamas] tunnel system does not come close to what has been discovered in the field,” which cost, it said, over a billion dollars to build.

The ones who lead the charge to find the tunnels are the combat engineers who drive the D9 armored bulldozer, with its strong, huge blade that can clear away trees, roads and even houses while absorbing the explosion of any boobytraps on the way. The engineers are shielded from landmines, grenades and anti-tank missiles launched at them by the heavy protective armor with which the machine is reinforced.

Read  Nancy Pelosi calls on FBI to investigate anti-Israel protests

“Everyone fights over us,” one driver told Dadon. “Everyone wants the D9 to go in front and lead the force.” He asked the reporter to imagine what it is like to sit in the small cabin “for 36, 48 hours straight,” with the motor roaring as he is constantly on the move, but he knows his work is vital, he says, as tunnel entrances are everywhere.

Tunnels openings have been found in private homes, under schools and mosques and, as most recently proven by the IDF, under the major hospitals in Gaza City. The embedding of such military sites in civilian areas is internationally considered a war crime.

Not all the tunnels are narrow, where only at most two fighters can stand side by side, the report noted. The ones in the south that run under the Gazan-Egyptian border are used for smuggling in both weapons and civilian goods, the latter of which Hamas taxes at 20%, turning its leaders into multi-millionaires.

“There are tunnels though which they smuggled in whole cars,” Avivi said, “trucks, missiles the size of a room.” The amount of arms that Hamas has brought in this way “is unbelievable,” pointing out that “just what the some 3,000 terrorists who crossed [into Israel] on October 7 left behind in the field was over a thousand RPG missiles.”

Read  UN official accused of silence on Oct. 7 to visit Israel to document Hamas sexual violence

The picture on the screen also showed mines, grenades, shoulder launchers and dozens of different-sized magazines of bullets that the IDF had collected, spread out over the floor of a large room.

“It’s something we’re going to have to take into account once this fighting is over,” he commented, “how we’re going to guard this border. We cannot allow ourselves to have this kind of scope of armaments entering the Strip.”