Israel has uncovered a major Hamas tunnel network in Gaza City that served as an underground command center, as ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas gain momentum following recent clashes.
Israel Discovers Sophisticated Tunnel Network Under Gaza City
Last week, the Israeli military uncovered a Hamas tunnel near the Gaza border that extends hundreds of meters underground. New details have now emerged that Israel discovered an extensive tunnel network underneath Gaza City that was being used as a nerve center by Hamas’ senior leadership.
The tunnels were discovered under the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the tunnel network connects to apartments and houses in the densely populated refugee camp above it.
A map of the tunnel network uncovered by Israel under northern Gaza. (IDF Spokesperson)
Inside the tunnels, the military found a command room, monitoring equipment, communications gear, energy infrastructure, ventilation systems, and more – indicating the tunnels were being used as an underground base of operations by Hamas leaders.
The IDF described the tunnel network as Hamas’ “Metro” system in Gaza, allowing fighters freedom of movement underground. The tunnels were dug extremely deep underground, making them resistant to Israeli airstrikes. IDF engineers estimate the main tunnel shaft is at least 25 meters underground.
5 Hostages Found Dead Inside Hamas Tunnels
In another development, Israel announced that five hostages who had been held captive by Hamas were found dead inside Hamas’ tunnel network in Gaza.
The five hostages were two Israeli civilians held in Gaza since 2014-2015, and the remains of three Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 war.
On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had intelligence the remains of two soldiers killed eight years ago during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war – Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin – were being held somewhere in the Palestinian territory. This precipitated the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza to locate the hostages while pressuring Hamas.
However, the IDF announced the five bodies were found inside the tunnels as part of the ongoing operation, suggesting the two captured Israeli civilians were also being held there. According to reports, the IDF razed parts of the tunnel where the bodies were found.
Circumstances surrounding the deaths are still being investigated. But the underground conditions intensified by recent airstrikes may have quickly deteriorated, leading to their deaths, IDF officials said.
Ceasefire Talks Gain Traction
In recent days, momentum towards a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas has grown.
The UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland has been mediating indirect talks between the two sides. Hamas officials said they submitted a revised truce offer and are waiting for Israel’s response. Meanwhile, the IDF has said it has destroyed over 15 kilometers of Hamas tunnels during its latest incursion into Gaza.
Additionally, a delegation of Egyptian officials visited Israel for ceasefire deliberations following talks in Cairo with Hamas’ political chief Ismael Haniyeh last week. Egypt often plays a mediating role between Israel and Hamas and was a key player in negotiating the end of the 2014 war.
According to reports, Hamas has linked lifting the Gaza blockade and allowing for reconstruction efforts to any truce deal. But experts say a ceasefire may simply restore the “quiet-for-quiet” arrangement in order to prevent further loss of life on both sides.
Escalations Subside But Tensions Remain
While the recent Israel-Hamas clashes appear to be subsiding as ceasefire talks progress, tensions around Gaza remain.
The fighting first broke out in August during an Israeli operation in the West Bank. It escalated in early December with Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes.
But discoveries of attack tunnels that can be used to conduct raids or kidnappings have been met with Israeli strikes aiming to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities. Israel holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from Gaza.
And violence could erupt again if ceasefire talks fall apart. But international stakeholders hope a mediated solution can be reached soon.
Timeline of Recent Israel-Hamas Violence
|Aug 1, 2022
|Israel launches Operation Breaking Dawn against PIJ in Gaza after arrest of senior leader in West Bank
|Dec 2-5, 2022
|Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes after IDF Gaza border operation
|Dec 9-11, 2022
|Brief escalation; IDF strikes Gaza
|Dec 14, 2022
|IDF begins Gaza ground operation to locate captive soldiers’ remains
|Dec 18, 2022
|Israel announces discovery of major Hamas tunnel network in Gaza City
|Dec 24, 2022
|IDF destroys parts of tunnel where bodies of 2 soldiers, 3 hostages held by Hamas found
The recent unrest shows that even as ceasefire talks move ahead, tensions between the two sides persist. Israel continues working to locate tunnels used as underground infrastructure. And the discovery of the five bodies inside them will likely harden Israel’s resolve.
But Egypt’s role as mediator has proven effective before. If a mutually acceptable deal isn’t reached, Gaza risks further hardship, especially if tensions spiral into another war. For now, cautious optimism remains around the ceasefire talks. But lasting peace still looks distant.
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