Hamas tunnels in Gaza a ‘huge complication’ for any Israeli offensive: experts – National | Globalnews.ca

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The eyes of the world are on Gaza ahead of a looming Israeli ground offensive, but what people are looking for might be hidden deep underground in a maze of tunnels.

The potential offensive comes following a surprise attack by Hamas — the militant group that controls Gaza — in Israel on Oct. 7. The Hamas assault killed more than 1,300 people on the Israeli side, most of them civilians. Roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women.

Israel’s defence forces say they only target Hamas militants, the buildings they use and their tunnels.

Nicknamed the ‘Gaza Metro’ by Israel, the vast network of tunnels are used to hide out or move around covertly. Now, they’re likely a place to hold some of the hostages. Border tunnels to Egypt are used to smuggle goods and weapons as Gaza remains under blockade.

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“Think of the Gaza Strip as one layer for the civilians and then another layer for Hamas. And what we are doing now is trying to get to that second layer,” said Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, who is a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces.


Map of gaza’s tunnel network, estimated to up to 30 meters deep.


Global News

Hamas has used tunnels into Israel to stage attacks in the past. Two years ago, Israel finished a subterranean wall designed to stop militants from tunnelling into Israel. That may explain why Saturday’s attack appeared to take place primarily above ground.

Inside Gaza, the tunnel network is estimated to be up to 30 meters deep.

Military analyst Eitan Shamir says the tunnels are thought to be more dense in northern Gaza — where residents have been told to evacuate.

“It makes a huge complication. This is a very difficult challenge,” Shamir told Global News.

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Shamir says he believes hostages are almost certainly held in those tunnels, but Israeli forces won’t let that distract them from targeting militants.

“If you stop to take the hostages’ situation into account, the effect would be total paralysis. This is exactly what wanted, Israel to be in this corner,” he said.


Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas conflict: NATO allies demands release of hostages, Stoltenberg advises nations not to ‘escalate’ situation'


Israel-Hamas conflict: NATO allies demands release of hostages, Stoltenberg advises nations not to ‘escalate’ situation


Drones and robot technology will allow soldiers to detect some traps underground. Even still, the sprawling network of tunnels could make the coming days much more deadly on both sides and potentially for hostages, too.

The Israeli military said in a Saturday statement it was preparing a coordinated offensive in Gaza using air, ground and naval forces, The Associated Press reported.

On Friday, Israel gave the population of the northern half of the Gaza Strip – about one million people – until Saturday morning to move south.

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Hamas has urged people to stay in their homes, calling the Israeli directions to leave “psychological warfare.”

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