Thursday, May 5, 2016

Analysis: Hamas under pressure as Israel makes progress on tunnels

Gaza tunnels 
Hamas's military wing, faced with the prospect of losing its trump card, is escalating the situation.
 
For the first time since the August 2014 cease-fire came into effect ending Operation Protective Edge, Hamas launched cross-border mortar attacks throughout Wednesday.

Hamas is targeting IDF units engaged in hi-tech tunnel detection work on the border between Israel and northern Gaza. It is escalating the situation due its fear that it is about to lose its trump card.

Hamas has invested much treasure and blood in its cross-border tunnel network, and its military wing is alarmed by what it perceives as one Israeli breakthrough after another in tunnel detection.

Although Hamas is keen on honing its rocket, drone and sea-based attack capabilities, its tunnel construction program remain its crown jewel.

During the two-month conflict in 2014, those tunnels terrorized civilians in southern Israel.

Hamas fighters popped up from seemingly nowhere to attack and kidnap soldiers.

The IDF responded to Wednesday’s stream of mortar shells with pinpoint tank fire at Hamas positions. Yet the cease-fire is now facing its first real challenge, and an escalation could easily occur in the near future. This is also a test of previous claims by defense officials of a zero-tolerance policy to Hamas breaches of the truce.
 
As noted in previous coverage last month, the discovery in April of a tunnel going from southern Gaza into Israel, and subsequent progress in detection in other areas, means Israel has obtained what it hasn’t had before: a precise ability to know where Hamas’s tunnels snake their way underground.

Hamas knows its rockets have launched their punch due to the ever-growing effectiveness of the Iron Dome air defense batteries, which have grown in both number and ability since 2014.

Since the end of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has invested more than NIS 600 million in tunnel detection technology, and those hi-tech efforts are now bearing fruit.

The defense establishment is not about to stop its work for fear of an escalation. The tunnels violate Israel’s sovereignty, and Hamas stands far more to lose from an escalation than Israel.

The tunnels are supposed to enable Hamas to insert its highly trained and heavily armed Nuhba Force members into Israel in a future war. These terrorist units would then act as death squads, murdering and maiming Israelis, or kidnapping them.

The fact that Gaza’s economy is, once again, on the brink of imploding – due to Hamas’s insistence of using its enclave as a bastion of jihad against Israel, rather than investing in its people’s welfare – is another factor that could hasten another war.

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