The IDF has destroyed Hamas’s flagship terrorism project; its network of cross-border tunnels that snuck under the border into Israel. The military also began to pull its forces out of the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.
Hamas has spent five years preparing this strategic threat; the IDF wrecked 31 tunnels in two weeks. By Sunday, all of the tunnels the IDF knew about, or discovered during the offensive, will be destroyed. A few tunnels that Israel doesn’t know about may remain intact.
Many of the underground passages were designed to send heavily armed murder squads into Israeli villages for killing sprees, and attack army positions from behind. They were filled with weapons, explosives, and equipment, enabling terrorists dressed in civilian clothing to disappear into a shaft in Gaza, and emerge in Israel, disguised as IDF soldiers and fully equipped to carry out a mass casualty attack. The IDF has discovered motorcycles in some of the tunnels, which were earmarked by Hamas for rapid raids into Israel and subsequent retreats back into Gaza.
Currently, inside the Strip, the army has gained good control of the areas it is maneuvering in. Despite very difficult fighting that has raged on the ground, which included heavy RPG, anti-tank, and automatic fire by Hamas cells, and despite the painful price Israel has paid thus far, the army is very close to achieving this key goal of its offensive.
In the big majority of cases where the IDF clashed with Hamas, the battle ended with the terrorists being killed, wounded, or with their surrender.
No one in the army expected the fighting to be easy, or one-way. And no one expected all of the battles to end without painful losses on the Israeli side, when tens of thousands of soldiers clashed with Hamas’s battalions of guerrillas.
Similarly, the intelligence available to the ground forces has been superb, but it is unrealistic to expect a 100% success rate. Planned ambushes, such as the one carried out by Hamas in Rafah on Friday, which led to the kidnapping of an officer, were part of the known threats facing the army in Gaza. Not all threats can be dealt with successfully on the battlefield. Such is the nature of war.