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IDF dismantles half-mile-long Hamas tunnel in Gaza

Israeli forces in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Israeli soldiers from the 679th Brigade Combat Unit and the elite Yahalom forces dismantled a large Hamas terror tunnel in the central Gaza Strip on Monday night. Measuring 60 feet (18 meters) deep and half a mile long (800 meters), the tunnel was located adjacent to the Central Gaza Strip Corridor, which is currently controlled by Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF announced it had been focusing on degrading Hamas’ remaining capabilities in central Gaza over the last several weeks to prevent it from regrouping in the area.

"The soldiers are succeeding in targeting significant abilities of the Hamas terror group in the Central Gaza Strip, and are deepening their control of the area," the IDF said in an official statement.

After ousting its political rival, the Fatah party, from Gaza in 2007, Hamas has heavily invested in building a vast subterranean tunnel system throughout Gaza. Nicknamed “Gaza Metro,” Hamas’ tunnel network is estimated to extend for at least 350 miles – longer than the London Underground.

Hamas’ vast network consists of attack tunnels, transportation tunnels, storage tunnels and more sophisticated tunnels that are used as living quarters of senior Hamas commanders. The majority of Israel's 125 remaining hostages are believed to be held somewhere in the tunnels below the Gaza Strip.

The IDF has invested considerable resources, time and effort in dismantling as much of Hamas’ infrastructure as possible, both above and below ground. While many of the tunnels have been either destroyed or damaged, much of the tunnel system is reportedly still intact.

In March, John Spencer, chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the West Point Military Academy in New York, stated that the tunnels are a crucial component in Hamas’ overall military and political strategies.

“For the first time in the history of tunnel warfare... Hamas has built a tunnel network to gain not just a military advantage, but a political advantage, as well,” Spencer explained.

“But more importantly than the scale of the tunnels in Gaza, the Israel-Hamas war is the first war in which a combatant has made its vast underground network a defining centerpiece of its overall political-military strategy,” the retired U.S. army officer added.

Spencer estimates that Hamas has invested at least $1 billion to construct the tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip.

While the terror tunnels in Gaza are far from the largest in the world, Spencer noted that Hamas' system stands out because it is deliberately constructed under civilian areas and protected sites such as hospitals, mosques and schools.

“Almost all of Hamas’ tunnels are built into civilian and protected sites in densely populated urban areas. Much of the infrastructure providing access to the tunnels is in protected sites. This complicates discriminating between military targets and civilian locations – if not rendering it entirely impossible – because Hamas does not have military sites separate from civilian sites,” Spencer noted.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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