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May 29, 2024

Israel Destroys Gaza Cemetary to Target Hamas Tunnel Network; Fighting Expected to Continue

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Jan 30, 2024

Israel’s military conducted an operation this week to destroy parts of a cemetery in Khan Younis, Gaza, stating that Hamas had built an underground tunnel network beneath the site for military purposes. The destruction of the cemetery has led to outrage among Palestinians and tensions remain high in the region.

Israel Claims Cemetery Hid Tunnels

On January 27th, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent military bulldozers with combat engineering troops into a cemetery in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis [1]. The IDF said its aim was to expose and destroy a network of underground tunnels built by Hamas beneath the cemetery.

IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav stated that Hamas had “desecrated the sanctity of this cemetery” by building a tunnel network underneath it to conceal movement of militants and weapons [2]. The military released drone footage showing excavators digging up part of the cemetery and exposing tunnel shafts.

However, a visit to the partially-demolished cemetery showed no clear signs of tunnels [3]. This raised doubts and criticism over Israel’s justification for the action. Angry Palestinian relatives of those buried there said Israeli forces had in fact “desecrated” the cemetery themselves.

Hamas Tunnel Network Largely Intact

Israeli defense officials believe Hamas’ underground tunnel network beneath Gaza remains largely intact, despite over 100 days of bombardments and ground operations aimed at destroying it [4].

Assessments reportedly show that 60-80% of the tunnel system has survived Israeli efforts to demolish it. Hamas uses the tunnels to store weapons, move fighters, and launch attacks on Israel. Successive Israeli governments have made dismantling the tunnel network a major strategic objective [5].

However, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi acknowledged that completely destroying Hamas’ underground network is extremely challenging [6]. “This mission will continue for as long as necessary,” Halevi stated.

Status of Hamas’ Gaza Tunnel Network
Total length: Est. 300 km
Tunnels damaged/destroyed: Up to 40%
Tunnels still intact: 60-80%

Table shows estimates of damage to Hamas’ tunnel network in latest fighting

Cemetary Destruction Prompts Outcry

The destruction of parts of the cemetery prompted outrage in Gaza and internationally. Palestinian residents said at least five bodies had been exhumed by Israeli bulldozers [7]. Distraught families rushed to rebury relatives’ remains in temporary graves.

The cemetery destruction “amounts to collective punishment and a war crime,” said local Palestinian rights group Al Mezan [8]. The Palestinian Authority foreign ministry called it “a heinous crime” [9].

However, the IDF maintains it acted lawfully against a legitimate military target located under the cemetery. Israel accused Hamas of hiding tunnel infrastructure beneath civilian sites like graveyards, schools and hospitals [10].

Further Fighting Expected in Gaza

After over 100 days of conflict, Israeli officials stated that eliminating the threat from Hamas will be a “long road” requiring extended military action [11].

The chief of Israel’s Southern Command warned Hamas that Israel knows the location of their senior leaders and will continue targeting them [12]. Over 100 Hamas operatives have been captured in recent days of fighting inside Gaza tunnels.

However, Hamas remains firmly entrenched in its rule over Gaza. Killing more leaders likely won’t lead to Hamas’ downfall [13]. Israel may need to commit to another prolonged military campaign targeting Hamas’ military capabilities for the forseeable future.

The latest tensions over the cemetery destruction ensures violent confrontations between Israeli forces and Gaza militant groups will continue. Both sides remain locked in a cycle of attacks and reprisals, with civilians paying the highest price.

References

  1. https://www.foxnews.com/world/israeli-forces-destroy-hamas-tunnel-system-built-under-cemetery-idf-says.amp
  2. https://www.jns.org/hamas-command-center-found-under-cemetery-israel-accused-of-desecrating/
  3. https://www.albanyherald.com/news/israel-claims-a-tunnel-ran-through-this-gaza-cemetery-it-destroyed-a-visit-to-the/article_29db821d-0104-51b6-96cf-aed8fe0003af.html
  4. https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-israel-believe-up-to-80-of-hamas-tunnels-intact-after-114-days-of-war-report/amp/
  5. https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/israel-struggles-to-destroy-hamass-gaza-tunnel-network-fb641122
  6. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-30/israel-military-sees-long-road-ahead-to-eliminating-hamas-threat
  7. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/no-rest-for-gaza-dead-with-swift-burials-bodies-dug-up-4955134/amp/1
  8. https://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-desecrated-my-grandfathers-grave/44211
  9. https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/gallery/2024/1/30/no-rest-for-gazas-dead-with-rushed-burials-bodies-desecrated
  10. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/384276
  11. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024/01/30/israel-military-sees-long-road-ahead-to-eliminating-hamas-threat
  12. https://www.timesofisrael.com/gallant-tells-soldiers-over-100-terrorists-captured-recently-hamas-collapsing-in-its-own-tunnels/
  13. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2024-01-30/ty-article/.premium/now-fighting-inside-gaza-tunnels-idf-knows-that-killing-hamas-leaders-wont-end-its-rule/0000018d-572b-d0fc-a9bd-5f7fa3850000
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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