December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Signals Shift to Underground Warfare

December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Signals Shift to Underground Warfare

Latest Developments

Israel on December 19 published images of commandos operating within a Hamas tunnel, a deployment that marks a shift to more face-to-face tactics against the underground threat in Gaza. Footage of a soldier from the elite Shaldag unit being winched down into a Gaza City tunnel, and relaying video from inside, came as Israel reported the destruction of 1,500 of the secret passages in the war so far.

The military had previously said it preferred to keep troops out of the tunnels and instead to use stand-off technologies like robots and pourable liquid explosives to explore and demolish them. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, chief spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said a subterranean war was now being waged with “breakthrough capabilities” that “allow us to achieve significant accomplishments, including killing terrorists underground.”

Expert Analysis

“While the Israelis have destroyed tunnels on the surface, there is psychological value to showing they are willing to go down and face Hamas on its below-ground home turf. The Palestinian terrorist group has assumed, until now, that it was safe in tunnels where it is holding hostages. Now, it will have to wonder if subterranean rescue missions and targeted operations are in the works.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Every IDF soldier in Gaza is there to achieve two goals: destroy Hamas and bring the hostages home. The decision to send the soldiers into tunnels at this juncture may indicate that the IDF believes that it is closing in on high-value targets or Israeli hostages. While underground battle is daunting and Hamas has probably planned terrible surprises for the soldiers, the soldiers have trained in tunnels for over a decade and are determined to accomplish the goals of this war.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“The ongoing discoveries of underground tunnels beneath Gaza serve as undeniable evidence of Hamas’s extensive military infrastructure. While technology has assisted in identifying tunnels below Gaza, it does have its limits. As more tunnels are discovered, specialized units within the IDF will increasingly find themselves venturing below ground in pursuit of hostages, Hamas leaders, and valuable intelligence.” Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

IDF Eliminates Hamas Financier,” FDD Flash Brief

IDF Dismantles Hamas Terror Infrastructure, Uncovers Giant Tunnel,” FDD Flash Brief

West Bank Terror Tunnel Shafts Uncovered by IDF,” FDD Flash Brief

10 Things to Know About Hamas Tunnels,” FDD Insight


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