Seven weeks after the war, Israel says it is still facing threats from the underground network of Hamas, which it calls the “Gaza metro”.
Six weeks after the ceasefire that ended the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Monday that it is still encountering Hamas fighters emerging from tunnels in the north of Gaza. The IDF said that the tunnels, which it calls the “Gaza metro“, are part of a vast and sophisticated underground network that Hamas uses to move, store and launch rockets, as well as to hide its leaders and hostages.
The IDF said that it has destroyed hundreds of kilometers of tunnels during the war, which lasted for a month and killed more than 12,000 Palestinians and 1400 Israelis. The IDF said that it used advanced technology, such as ground-penetrating radar, drones and sensors, to locate and target the tunnels, and also deployed special forces and engineering units to enter and demolish them.
However, the IDF admitted that it has not been able to eliminate the entire tunnel network, and that some tunnels may have survived or been rebuilt by Hamas. The IDF said that it is still conducting operations to monitor and neutralize the remaining tunnels, and that it is prepared to respond to any attacks or provocations from Hamas.
The IDF said that the tunnels pose a serious threat to Israel’s security, as they allow Hamas to launch surprise attacks, infiltrate Israeli territory, and evade Israel’s aerial and naval blockade. The IDF also said that the tunnels are a major obstacle to the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Gaza, as they prevent the delivery of aid and fuel, and endanger the lives of civilians and workers.
The IDF said that it holds Hamas responsible for the situation in Gaza, and that it will not tolerate any violation of the ceasefire, which was brokered by Qatar last week. The ceasefire stipulated the exchange of hostages and prisoners, as well as the easing of the siege on Gaza, but the implementation of the deal has been slow and fraught with difficulties, as both sides have accused each other of bad faith and non-compliance.
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has claimed that it has built 500 kilometers (311 miles) of tunnels under Gaza, and that it still holds 91 Israeli hostages, including six soldiers’ bodies. Hamas has demanded the release of more Palestinian prisoners and the lifting of the blockade, and has warned that it will resume the rocket fire if the ceasefire collapses.
Hamas has also boasted that its tunnels are a strategic asset and a source of pride, and that they have surprised and frustrated the IDF. Hamas has said that its tunnels are a response to Israel’s occupation and aggression, and that they are a means of resistance and deterrence.