The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has uncovered a vast and highly developed tunnel network built by Hamas under Gaza, including a cell where around 20 hostages were held recently under cruel conditions.
Discovery of Tunnel with Prison Cells Shock Israeli Officials
On January 20th, 2024, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus announced that soldiers had discovered a tunnel in Khan Younis, Gaza, that had been used by Hamas to hold hostages. Inside the tunnel, spanning 830 meters in length and dug over 65 feet underground, soldiers found prison cells with barred doors and windows.
Disturbingly, the walls were adorned with children’s drawings of the sun, flowers, and homes. It appears the Hamas militants were keeping women and children prisoner inside the cells. “It was a cruel place, difficult to stay in,” noted one IDF officer.
An underground cell found by Israeli forces
Inside the dungeon-like cells, soldiers discovered soiled mattresses, buckets for waste, and barred windows preventing sunlight from entering.
One Israeli commander who took part in the mission to uncover the tunnel network called the conditions “inhumane” and were likely “psychologically damaging” for the hostages held inside.
Officials believe the elaborate tunnel system has been under construction for years, part of Hamas’ vast subterranean network used to house weapons, stage attacks, and hold hostages.
Scale of Tunnels Stuns Israeli Military
While Israel was aware Hamas had built tunnels under Gaza, the extent and sophistication came as a shock to military officials.
“We had no idea the scale of Hamas’ tunnel operations,” noted one IDF general. “They’ve literally hollowed out Gaza into a fortress.”
Engineers estimate there are hundreds of miles of tunnels spanning underneath towns and cities across the 25-mile-long Gaza strip. Moreover, Hamas has dug access shafts every 180 feet or so, allowing militants to enter and exit the tunnels swiftly.
All told, the IDF estimates there are over 5,700 access points dotted across Gaza leading down into the tunnels.
“They made the civilian neighborhoods sitting above into a massive military base,” said one Israeli commander. “It’s staggering.”
The tunnels are said to be up to 90 feet deep in some places, making them nearly impervious to Israeli airstrikes. Inside the tunnels are weapon caches, bunk beds for Hamas fighters to rest in between battles, and now—as the latest discovery shows—prison cells to house hostages.
|Hundreds of miles
|Up to 90 feet
|Over 5,700 across Gaza
|Weapons, staging attacks, holding hostages
History of Hamas Using Tunnels
Hamas began constructing tunnels after Israel withdrew military forces and Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005.
Lacking traditional military power in the form of tanks, planes or warships, Hamas invested heavily in tunnels to move weapons and stage attacks against Israel.
Over the years, Hamas has used tunnels to:
- Smuggle weapons purchased abroad into Gaza past Israeli border controls
- Launch cross-border raids to kidnap Israeli soldiers
- Travel unseen around Gaza to set up rocket launch sites and evade Israeli airstrikes
- Store missiles, rifles, and ammunition underground safe from Israeli detection
- Hold hostages for prisoner swaps or to barter for cash from families
In 2006, Hamas fighters used a tunnel to sneak into Israel and launch an ambush, killing two soldiers and kidnapping Corporal Gilad Shalit. Shalit was held captive for five years in Gaza before Israel agreed to free over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier’s release.
The latest discovery of prison cells inside Hamas’ tunnels has raised fears that the militant Islamic group was preparing to take more Israeli hostages.
Child Hostages Found By Soldiers
More disturbingly, IDF soldiers conducting sweeps uncovered drawings made by children on the walls of multiple underground prison cells.
Officials now believe Hamas was holding women and children captive alongside adult abductees.
“It appears they were housing entire families to use as future bargaining chips,” said one Israeli commander.
Human rights groups have strongly condemned Hamas for violating international law by taking civilian hostages. Critics argue imprisoned women and children likely suffered psychological trauma.
“Hamas has shown absolute cruelty—if not outright barbarism—with this behavior,” said Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth. “Using child hostages is the work of depraved minds.”
Calls for International Community to Condemn Hamas Tunnels
The Israeli government is urging the international community to condemn Hamas for building the elaborate terror tunnel network revealed underneath Gaza neighborhoods.
“Hamas has violated every law of war, every basic moral code with these actions,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem. “The U.N. must act now to denounce these outrageous terror tunnels found under innocent Palestinians’ homes.”
So far, global reaction has been muted—with a few exceptions.
“The scale and depth of Hamas’ tunnel network is staggering,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “Such infrastructure for terrorist operations coming literally underneath civilians’ homes is extremely concerning.”
Fears of New Wave of Kidnappings
With the discovery of prison cells inside Hamas’ sprawling tunnel network, Israeli defense leaders fear the militant group may be plotting more kidnappings.
Hamas is still holding two Israeli citizens—Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham Mengistu—captive in Gaza after abducting them in 2015. The organization is also holding the remains of two Israeli Defense Force soldiers—Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul—killed in 2014.
“We have to assume Hamas was building these dungeon-like prison cells in order to take more Israelis hostage,” commented IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Conricus. “Unfortunately, the tactic has worked well for them before.”
Israeli military officials have noted increased activity along the Gaza border recently, including sightings of armed Hamas scouts potentially looking for opportunities to infiltrate into Israel and abduct citizens or soldiers.
In light of the revelations regarding Hamas’ tunnels, the IDF has redeployed additional infantry battalions to the Gaza border and increased reconnaissance flights overhead to detect any suspicious activity. Checkpoints on roads leading to Gaza have also been reinforced.
Inside Israeli towns near the border, citizens are being advised to remain alert for attempted kidnappings.
Ongoing Operations in Gaza Aim to Destroy Tunnel Network
The shocking discovery of Hamas’ elaborate tunnels has spurred the Israeli military to vow to map out and destroy this underground network.
For over three months, IDF ground forces, fighter jets, attack helicopters, and naval ships have pounded suspected tunnel locations across Gaza. Just yesterday, an Israeli airstrike took out Hamas’ main rocket manufacturing plant buried in a tunnel underneath Khan Younis.
While progress is being made, military leaders admit the undertaking of destroying all of Hamas’ tunnels will be immense given how deeply they have permeated underneath Gaza.
“It may takes years to entirely eliminate this tunnel threat,” conceded one IDF general. “But Israel will see this mission through however long it takes. We cannot have these terrorist tunnels sitting literally underneath our children’s homes.”
To complement airstrikes and ground operations targeting tunnels, Israel is fast-tracking new tunnel detection technologies including advanced radar, seismic sensors, and underground robots capable of maneuvering through the tight spaces.
“We need to use every tool at our disposal to uncover this tunnel network and destroy it,” commented Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
The recent uncovering of prison cells holding women and children hostages has shocked Israeli authorities already grappling with a massive tunnel complex underneath Gaza neighborhoods. Destroying Hamas’ subterranean network, which is central to almost all of the terrorist organization’s military and terror operations, will likely take considerable time spanning months if not years. Meanwhile, fears remain high that Hamas may be plotting more kidnappings to increase their leverage—as they’ve successfully done before through tunnel infiltrations and cross-border raids. For now, Israel is shoring up border defenses, pounding suspected tunnel locations, and racing to deploy new tunnel-detection technologies. But eliminating the thousands of access points across 25 miles of Gaza territory will be a prolonged campaign. One thing is certain—these new revelations reveal the immense scale of the underground threat Israeli forces are facing.
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