The IDF and Hamas are engaged in another round of warfare both above and below ground. The two sides are exchanging fire in the Gaza border area while the IDF continues its operations to locate the terror tunnels of the Hamas military wing. The IDF did the correct thing on Thursday by declaring areas near Gaza with suspected tunnels as “closed military zones”, amid concern that Hamas has already infiltrated into Israeli territory, even as training exercises. It is also important that the IDF is maintaining secrecy on the technological tools being used to locate the tunnels.
The exchanges of fire between the IDF and Hamas in the Gaza border area during the last few days have rattled the terrorist organization, making it fire mortar shells, rockets and light weapons at IDF forces in the area. The firing that intensifies each time that the troops approach a tunnel is helping the IDF locate the openings of the tunnels.
More than a year after the end of “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, which was supposed to eliminate the threat of tunnels to southern Israel and restore calm among citizens, the Israeli government finally ordered the Defense Ministry and the IDF to listen to the complaints of Gaza border area residents, and to what was happening beneath the ground.
The noises from underground that were recorded over the last few months by frightened residents in the area’s communities and the shaking of the ground at night left no doubt that the digging was taking place nearby. In order to eradicate in order to end the tunnel threat. IDF experts tested hundreds of devices, ideas, methods and means from various fields of research, including some that could be defined as bizarre. Many new tunnels were been discovered with the help of hitherto untested technologies.
This with the human sources of intelligence like Mohammad Atauna, a commander in the Hamas tunnel network whose capture by Israeli intelligence was published on Thursday, could lead to the elimination of the tunnels in the coming days and weeks. All of these developments have made it clear to the heads of the military wing of Hamas, the Izzudin al-Qassam brigades, among whom only some follow the orders of the Hamas leadership and its political wing, that their biggest strategic asset, the tunnels, may disappear in the very near future. Whether the process takes a month or six months, it should now be very obvious to them that in the very near future the majority of the underground Hamas infrastructure will be destroyed, whether by explosives or flooding.
Since the heads of the Hamas military wing invested most of their budget and efforts in the digging, fortification and reinforcement of the tunnels that they planned to use to invade and attack Israel, the destruction of the underground network may have three main results:
1. In the coming days, the Hamas military wing may lash out in a desperate attempt to land a major blow against Israel. It is expected to be significantly weakened by the IDF operations in the near future but regain strength in the long term.
2. The military wing of Hamas will suffer a major defeat in the battle for popular support. The dire economic situation in Gaza that is partially due to the diversion of resources to the tunnels and other military means will weaken support among the public.
3. These developments will bring about a change in the balance of forces in Gaza that will benefit the political wing and weaken the military wing.
Under these circumstances, the desire by the head of the Izzuddin al-Qassam brigades, Mohammed Deif, who was seriously injured but is still alive and kicking, to get revenge against Israel has not been forgotten in IDF command in Tel Aviv and at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The assessment in Israel’s intelligence community is that in the coming days he will use all the means at his disposal, with or without the permission of the political wing, and just before his last tunnels are discovered, in an attempt to launch a strike to deal a powerful and painful blow to Israel.
In the meantime, on Thursday, the IDF continued its preparations to bombard Hamas from the ground and the air as the terrorist organization’s mortar shelling increases.