Israel continues extensive operations to uncover and destroy Hamas tunnels under Gaza, revealing a vast underground network far larger than previously estimated. Recent tunnel discoveries shed light on inhumane detention conditions for hostages held by Hamas.
IDF Photos Reveal Squalid Hostage Cells in Hamas Tunnels
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published photos on January 20th exposing tiny underground cells where Hamas detained hostages under brutal conditions in southern Gaza.
The rooms contained only dirty mattresses and buckets for bodily functions. Childish drawings on the walls indicated Hamas imprisoned women and children. The tunnel network under Khan Younis stretched over 2 miles with multiple access shafts.
Brigadier General Nimrod Aloni confirmed Hamas held over 20 hostages including Israeli civilians Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht stated: “This is what a terror group with no red lines looks like.”
Human rights organizations denounced Hamas for violating international law. “Using civilian hostages as bargaining chips shows complete disregard for human rights,” said Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson.
Massive Hamas Tunnel Network Fortified Gaza
Israel significantly underestimated the scale of Hamas tunnels permeating Gaza, enabling the group to move weapons and fighters undetected. Officials now believe there are hundreds of miles of tunnels with over 5,000 access points.
“What was discovered underneath Gaza is an underground city with infrastructure to protect Hamas members from Israeli airstrikes and move quickly,” said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on January 18th. Advanced tunnel detection technologies show some tunnels spanning over 25 miles from north to south Gaza. Tunnels contained subway-like rails, ventilation, electricity lines – even medical clinics and explosives factories.
Kochavi confirmed the tunnels transformed Gaza into an “underground fortress.” The elaborate system let Hamas attack Israel more effectively during conflicts while shielding assets and leaders.
Israel Methodically Locates and Destroys Tunnels
The IDF continues operations to precisely map then demolish Hamas tunnels in Gaza. Troops avoid recklessly bombing tunnels to prevent civilian casualties from collapses.
On January 16th, Israeli jets eliminated a major Hamas rocket manufacturing plant – the source of thousands of rockets fired at Israel during recent fighting. The factory was 30 meters underground, demonstrating the challenge for Israel to fully dismantle Hamas’ tunnel capabilities.
IDF efforts also uncovered a critical north-south tunnel on January 17th used to quickly move Hamas fighters and suicide bombers into Israel while transporting weapons and leaders between Gaza cities. Israel capped both ends with concrete to permanently seal the tunnel.
While completely eliminating all Hamas tunnels and infrastructure may take years, officials remain confident in steadily neutralizing the underground threat. “This will be a long, systematic battle, but Hamas invested decades building this network – we will invest the time to dismantle it,” Kochavi affirmed.
Ongoing Efforts to Free Israeli Captives
In conjunction with tunnel operations, Israel actively seeks the release of two Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas in Gaza – Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Both men suffer from mental illness and innocently crossed into Gaza in 2014.
Despite confirming Hamas imprisoned the Israelis on multiple occasions, the terrorist organization continues making unreasonable demands to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Lapid insists Israel will not cave to extortion or moral compromise by trading convicted murderers and terrorists for the civilians. However, recovering the two hostages remains a top priority.
Officials hope uncovering details on Hamas’ hostage procedures through newly discovered tunnels could yield clues on the captives’ current location and condition. “Exposing the horrific extremes of Hamas may pressure them to finally return our sons home,” remarked Avraham’s mother Agarnesh.
What Next After Uncovering Hamas Tunnels in Gaza?
Moving forward, Israel balances short and long-term approaches to the Hamas tunnel threat:
Immediate efforts focus on rescuing civilian hostages, precisely locating key remaining tunnels, and avoiding civilian casualties when demolishing discovered tunnels.
Long term solutions analyze tunnel construction techniques to improve detection capabilities, develop advanced tunnel mapping technologies, and implement geophysical monitoring solutions along the Gaza border.
Officials prepare for the strong likelihood of Hamas working to rebuild tunnels over time. But the recent tunnel achievements deliver a severe blow to Hamas militant capabilities and demonstration of Israeli intelligence gathering and operational precision.
Destroying core tunnels also buys Israel time to implement advanced border security measures before Hamas can recreate an intricate Gaza tunnel system. As Kochavi stressed: “This was Hamas’ flagship strategic asset, now severely degraded – we will ensure it stays that way.”
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