Photo Credit: Flash90
Israeli protesters in Jerusalem carry signs that say, ‘Bring them all back,’ and ‘We stop the world,’ January 27, 2024.

Despite weeks of Israeli attempts to destroy them, as much as 80% of the extensive tunnel network beneath Gaza, belonging to Hamas, remains intact, hindering Israel’s primary military objectives, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing American and Israeli officials.

Disabling the tunnels, which extend for over 300 miles beneath the narrow Gaza Strip—equivalent to approximately half the New York City subway system—would deprive Hamas of a relatively secure storage space for weapons and ammunition, a hiding place for fighters, command-and-control centers for its leadership, and the ability to move around the territory without being exposed to Israeli fire.

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Alas, that is still more ambition than reality on the 114th day of the Gaza War.

The IDF has explored diverse strategies for clearing the tunnels, such as deploying pumps to inundate them with water from the Mediterranean, conducting airstrikes and using liquid explosives to destroy them, employing dogs and robots for thorough searches, eliminating their entrances, and launching raids with highly trained soldiers, but still, Hamas continues to control the vast majority of the tunnels, enabling it to stage local attacks on Israeli forces that often result in carnage.

It doesn’t help that Israel has two primary goals – killing the Hamas leadership, and releasing the hostages – and those are more often than not contradictory.

An Israeli senior military official confessed to the WSJ: “The question is: is there a real way to get the hostages out alive? Otherwise, we would have been much more forceful in our approach.”

IS ISRAEL LOSING THE WAR BECAUSE IT IS ISRAEL?

This is one more area where Israel’s perception of itself as a humanitarian and peaceful society sabotages its effectiveness in achieving victory. It’s holding back the efforts to just blow up those tunnels using bunker-busting bombs. Not only would such bombings do the job of demolishing Hamas much faster, but they would also save the lives of IDF soldiers who are the direct victims of the slower approach to clearing the tunnels using the infantry.

Is the blood of the hostages redder than the blood of the soldiers? According to several hundred family members of the hostages, controlled and operated by the same forces that tried to topple Netanyahu’s government using legal trifles before the war, there is no question that the life of a hostage is more precious than the life of a soldier. No one says it out loud, but the calls to free all the hostages “Now,” no matter the costs, mean exactly that. Get them out, we don’t care how many soldiers will die as a result.

Israeli politicians like to tout the mantra about the IDF being the most moral army in the world. It certainly isn’t, if its core belief is that the lives of soldiers don’t matter when it comes to freeing the hostages, delivering humanitarian aid directly into the hands of Hamas, and imposing rules of engagement against terrorists that put soldiers’ lives in peril.

The same senior IDF official told the WSJ, “It’s a very hard mission. It’s done slowly, very carefully. It’s urban warfare unseen globally.”

In the 1960s, the tunnels of Cu Chi in Vietnam withstood American attacks for years and were the basis for the Tet Offensive of 1968 that turned the US public against the war. They were “only” 75 miles long.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.