Israeli estimates put the network reaching hundreds of kilometers in an area that is certainly not large. During the invasion – another telling fact – the soldiers discovered 5,600 “openings” leading to probable tunnels. Not all the same, not always sophisticated. In some cases well protected, in others rudimentary “exits” useful for fighters, especially those tasked with ambushing armored vehicles with anti-tank missiles or attacking IDF positions, as happened in the attack that killed about twenty cost soldiers their lives. They strike and become ghosts.
The tunnel junction, which is remembered in every crisis, is always at the forefront of aspects that ultimately impact the entire operation. In order hostages, weapons, movements.
One of the identified tunnels was used as a prison with appropriate modifications. There were small common rooms in alcoves with gates for prisoners, toilets, fans, solid structures made of concrete and tiles, walkways for descent into the depths, lights and triangles. The secret service had already collected information of this kind after the release of some Israelis, but the discovery of the shelters provided precise confirmation. It was hard to breathe, they said, there was a lot of moisture. The underground “dungeons” allow the al-Qassam Brigades to use the hostages as human shields around the desperately wanted leaders, moving them when necessary and making their release by lightning impossible (or nearly impossible). The selected units must proceed carefully, avoid traps and finally arrive before the extremists kill their “prey”. There is no time, there is no surprise factor.
Hamas and other factions have set up workshops in the tunnels to produce military equipment. It is yet another new discovery that provides proof. The groups' logistics transported machinery and tools away from massive bombing raids. In the artificial caves, they developed dual-charge anti-tank missiles, magnetic bombs to be attached to the “sides” of the Merkavas, and even rockets. The Israeli General Staff itself admits that the mujahideen have stockpiled food and ammunition.
The fighters returned to the areas that the invaders had conquered, also thanks to tunnels on the central-north axis. This despite the fact that the brigades left over 9,000 men on the field. Estimates vary as to how much Hamas has been weakened, with some suggesting a reduction of 30 or 40 percent, but the intensity of the clashes with so many casualties in the IDF ranks promises tough months ahead. And fears are spreading because the neutralization of the tunnels does not apply today. Floods, the deployment of sappers, the intervention of teams trained for this single mission, “industrial solutions” (never well explained), electronic and seismic instruments have not yet defeated a tactic as old as war.