Sunday, July 27, 2014

Middle East: Goal of Hamas?: Destruction of Israel

According to The Associated Press, a sophisticated, upscale network of tunnels Hamas-funded militants have dug from Gaza to Israel, dubbed "lower Gaza" by the Israeli military, is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas rulers view them as a military game changer in its conflict with Israel. The Israeli military says the tunnels pose a serious threat and that destroying the sophisticated underground network is a key foundation in its invasion of Gaza.

See the below link to understand Hamas' primary objectives:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/html/pdf/PF53-Satloff.pdf 

Gaza has two sets of tunnels: those accessing Egypt and those reaching Israel.

The underground tunnels to Egypt are designed to bypass a border blockade on Gaza that was tightened by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. The tunnels provide an economic lifeline and are used to deliver building supplies, fuel, consumer goods and even cattle and vehicles.

In some of its tunnels, Gaza militants receive weapons and cash from their patrons abroad, principally Iran. 

Egypt has destroyed virtually all of the tunnels over the past year, driving Hamas--which was taxing the smuggled imports--into a severe financial crisis.

"There are thousands of resistance fighters working underground and thousands others working above the ground, to prepare for the upcoming battle," Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, said earlier this year. 

COMMENT: In addition to the tunnels, Hamas also boosted its arsenal of anti-tank rockets, which have proven effective in Hezbollah's battle with Israeli ground troops in Lebanon in 2006.

Hamas has also moved many of its rocket launching sites and storage sites underground, making it more difficult for Israel to target them. Since the current round of Israel-Hamas fighting began on July 8, Gaza militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets at Israel and repeatedly tried to sneak into Israel through tunnels.

Israel says Hamas has dug dozens of tunnels, linking them to each other as well as to rocket manufacturing sites, maintenance facilities, launch sites and command and control centers. It says the tunnels are meant to facilitate mass attacks on Israelis as well as kidnappings, a tactic that Hamas has used in the past.

In 2006, Palestinian militants burrowed under the border to an Israeli army base, killed two soldiers and captured a third, Sgt. Gilad Schalit. After being held captive in Gaza for more than five years, he was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.

Palestinian militants trying to sneak into Israel through the tunnels have been found with tranquilizers and handcuffs, an indication that they "intended to abduct Israelis," according to the military.

"Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis. Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.

Atai Shelach, a former commander of the military's combat engineering unit, Yahalom, said ground forces could inflict some damage and deter Hamas, but that more is needed for the longer term. Shelach said Israeli companies are working to find a defense against the tunnels, but have not yet succeeded in developing an effective solution.