Israel Needs Years To Break Up Gaza Tunnels, Says New York Times

Gaza Tunnel

The Israeli military has been “astonished” by the size and quality of the tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza, according to an article published in the New York Times on Tuesday.

The tunnel network was originally estimated to include 250 miles (400 km) of underground passages and bunkers. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has since revised these estimates to 350-450 miles (560-725 km) or more. 

Two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were close to 5,700 separate shafts leading into the tunnels under Gaza. None of the numbers could be independently verified.

Flooding Tunnels Have Failed

It could take “years” to disable the tunnels, one Israeli official told the New York Times. They need to be mapped, checked for Israeli captives, and “made irreparable,” he said, acknowledging that the recent attempts to destroy the tunnels by flooding them with seawater “have failed.”

Hospitals Schools Mosques

According to another official, Israel is using a “triangle” model to locate the tunnels, which assumes they will be found under any hospital, school or mosque in Gaza.

The Israeli military has underestimated the “extent and importance” of the tunnels to Hamas, which the New York Times described as an “intelligence failure.”

The IDF has not disclosed the number of soldiers killed and wounded in tunnel warfare. Officially, almost 190 soldiers have been killed and 240 or so seriously wounded in the fighting since the start of the ground campaign in Gaza.

One soldier, who spoke with the New York Times on condition of anonymity, said that he had taken part in destroying about 50 tunnels in Beit Hanoun, in the northeast of Gaza. All of them were rigged with bombs and other explosives, wired to be activated remotely.

The militant group Hamas, which maintains de facto control over Gaza, struck at nearby Israeli settlements on October 7, claiming the lives of approximately 1,200 Israelis. Another 240 were taken into the Palestinian enclave as captives. Israel responded by declaring war on Hamas and launching air and artillery strikes on Gaza, followed by ground troops in November.

Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the first 100 days of fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Intensive Stage Of War Will End Soon, Says Israeli Defense Minister

A CNN report said:

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday that the “intensive maneuvering stage” of Israel’s military offensive in northern and southern Gaza will “end soon.”

The Israeli military is working to “eliminate pockets of resistance” in northern Gaza, Gallant said, adding: “We will achieve this via raids, airstrikes, special operations and additional activities.” 

After the October 7 attacks, Gallant said the original plan was for the “intensive maneuvering stage” of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to last approximately three months. But, he cautioned the Israeli military adapts its operations “in accordance with the reality on the ground” and “our intelligence.”

The IDF has announced one of its army divisions had exited the Gaza Strip on Monday night, in the most significant sign yet of a shift to a new phase of fighting that some Israeli officials have been promising.

The IDF said its 36th division, which comprises armored, engineering, and infantry companies, withdrew from the Gaza Strip after 80 days. 

The brigade operated in the areas of Zeitun, Shati, Shejaiya, Rimal, and the Central Camps, the Israeli military added. The IDF did not respond to CNN’s questions about whether the withdrawal was temporary, what was behind the withdrawal, or how many troops it involved. 

Israel And Hamas Agree On Medicine For Hostages, Aid To Gaza

Another CNN report said:

Qatar says it has brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas that will see medicines delivered to Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for the delivery of medicine and humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.

“Medicine along with other humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in the Gaza Strip, in the most affected and vulnerable areas, in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza,” the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday in a statement posted on X.

The medications and aid will leave Doha on Wednesday and head to Egypt before being transported to Gaza, the ministry added. It is unclear when the medicines are expected to reach Gaza.

Relatives of the more than 100 remaining hostages believed to be alive in Gaza have been calling for medications to be passed on to their loved ones.

It has been more than three months since Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostage. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group for the victims’ families, say that each new day in captivity further endangers their lives and health.

At least a third of the hostages have chronic illnesses and require medications, the forum said in a report released last week, adding that “others suffer from illnesses related to the harsh captivity conditions, which include mental and physical torture.”

Severe shortages of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza have led to operations being performed on children without anesthesia, according to UNICEF and a British surgeon who led an emergency medical team at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza.

Key Broker

The Qatari announcement comes days after the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said the director of Mossad, Israel’s  spy agency, David Barnea, had reached an agreement with Qatar on the delivery of medicines to hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Qatar played a key role in brokering an agreement between Hamas and Israel that led to the brief truce in November and the release of more than 100 hostages, as well as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped facilitate the release of the hostages in November, has been unable to visit the remaining captives in Gaza and does not know where they are, it told CNN.

It is unclear if the Red Cross will help pass the medication to the hostages. Over the weekend, an official familiar with the discussions told CNN that the Red Cross would not have a role in the deliveries.

The medicine is destined for more than 40 hostages thought by Israel to need it, according to the official, who also said that Hamas only agreed to the deal if more medicine was sent to hospitals and Palestinians in Gaza.

Throughout the war, Israel has allowed a limited amount of aid and medicines to enter Gaza but far more is needed, humanitarian groups say. The UN has complained that Israel has been rejecting missions to deliver supplies to northern Gaza.

An estimated 1.9 million people, or 85% of Gaza’s population, are now internally displaced, says the UN, while only 15 of the enclave’s hospitals remain operational.

More Than 10,000 Children Killed

At least 10,600 children have been killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health said. And the UN emergency relief chief warned Israel’s war has brought famine with “such incredible speed.”

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