Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by WorldTribune.com
‘Whole city of terror tunnels’ discovered during Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza
Special to WorldTribune.com
TEL AVIV — Israel’s military has begun its first major test in underground warfare.
Military sources said the Israel Army was engaged in its first major campaign to detect and destroy Hamas’ huge underground network in the Gaza Strip. They said the campaign marked a test of newly-acquired doctrine,
skills and equipment.
“A whole city of terror tunnels has been found,” Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said. “Without the ground operation, we would have woken up one day to an Israeli 9/11.”
The Army has discovered some 50 tunnels in and around the Gaza Strip. The sources said the tunnels, some of them 30 meters underground, formed a network meant to infiltrate Israel and attack communities near the Gaza frontier.
“It’s like the ‘Underground’, the ‘Metro’ or the ‘Subway,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. “These tunnels are all connected. I would describe it as ‘Lower Gaza.’ ”
The sources said the war in the Gaza Strip could serve as a prelude for a more extensive underground war with the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah. They said the tunnels in southern Lebanon would be much harder to detect than those in the sandy terrain of the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas planned these tunnels for years, and planned to use them to kidnap soldiers,” Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mordechai Almoz said. “[Now] they see the tunnels collapsing one after the other.”
For the last two years, the army has sought to develop skills and equipment to fight in enemy tunnels and bunkers. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been using tunnels to infiltrate Israel, abduct soldiers, fire rockets
deep within the Jewish state, operate command and control as well as conceal
fighters amid any invasion of the Gaza Strip.
“There is a significant operational need for the development of a
subterranean maneuvering capability in view of the currently evolving and
future threats and operational challenges,” [Res.] Col. Atai Shelach, a
leading ground commander, said. “The IDF will be required to operate in the
subterranean medium more and more intensively in the coming years and
In an analysis for Israel Defense magazine, Shelach said underground
warfare required precision intelligence as well as combat skills. He also
cited technology, weapons and communications to coordinate with above-ground
“Without sounding like a pessimist or a preacher, it must be noted that
subterranean warfare is a major type of warfare, just like the warfare
categories associated with combat operations in urban terrain, in open
terrain, in dense/tangled areas or in fortified localities,” Shelach said.
The sources acknowledged that Israel has been challenged by entry to
enemy tunnels, avoiding booby-trapped tunnels and the selection of tunnels
in underground combat. Other challenges include training soldiers to fight
in an environment with little oxygen or light.
“Today, we suffer from techno-operational blindness that stems from the
absence of technological capabilities for spotting the subterranean
objectives, and once they have been spotted — for operating down there
while ensuring the security of the forces on the one hand and operating
effectively from an operational point of view on the other hand,” Shelach