June 5, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF uncovers long tunnel in Rafah as Hezbollah attacks in north

June 5, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF uncovers long tunnel in Rafah as Hezbollah attacks in north

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on June 5 flew in an F-15 warplane over Gaza and northern Israel, surveying the multi-front conflict and threats faced by Israel. The flight took place the same day that Hezbollah targeted a site near the Druze village of Hurfeish in northern Israel, wounding multiple Israelis. It was a complex attack that illustrates Hezbollah’s use of drones to increase the threat it poses to Israel.

“We are in a process where we will continue and wear down the enemy, any negotiations with the Hamas terror organization will only be conducted under fire,” Gallant said.

In Gaza, Israel continues to expand control over the Philadelphi Corridor on the Egyptian border. The IDF’s 162nd Division is in charge of this operation, and is using its forces to locate and destroy terrorist infrastructure. On June 5, the IDF said that elements of the division located a number of tunnel shafts and a 1.2-mile long tunnel near the Egyptian border. “The tunnel that was located was extensive and contained blast doors, inside which the troops located weapons such as AK-47s, anti-tank missiles, many intelligence assets and explosives. The tunnel route was investigated and destroyed by troops of the Yahalom Unit,” the IDF said.

An infographic focusing on the tunnel shows how it branches out near the Egyptian and Rafah border crossings. The IDF took over the Gazan side of the crossing on May 7 after Hamas rocket fire targeted and killed four IDF soldiers near Kerem Shalom in Israel. The IDF has been operating for one month to secure the Philadelphi Corridor along the Egyptian border. The IDF achieved control over most of this area in late May but there are still some areas near the Mediterranean where IDF forces are not operating in strength. The tunnel that was found had more than 20 tunnel shafts connecting to it and it has several branches.

In addition to operations in Rafah, the IDF also launched a new ground maneuver in the area of Bureij in central Gaza. Bureij is one of several built-up areas collectively known as the “central camps.” This is because a refugee camp for Palestinians was established in Bureij in the 1950s. Other camps were built in Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah. The refugee camps have often served as a recruiting ground for Hamas and other terrorist groups. The IDF has largely refrained from entering these complex and congested urban areas during the eight-month war against Hamas. However, the IDF did operate briefly in Bureij in January, and Israel has targeted these areas with airstrikes.

Now the IDF appears to be increasing operations throughout the central camps, including by sending infantry into eastern Deir al-Balah and the 7th Armored Brigade into Bureij. Both operations are under the command of the 98th Division which was recently withdrawn from Jabalya in northern Gaza where it eliminated dozens of terrorists. “Hours after the start of the operation, the 7th Brigade Combat Team located a ready-to-launch mortar shell launcher, hidden under a post with a UN symbol on it, near the border fence,” the IDF said on June 5.

Meanwhile in northern Israel, Hezbollah continued its attacks. Hezbollah claimed via a statement published on the pro-Iranian regime Al-Mayadeen that it used drones to target the IDF near the Druze town of Hurfeish. Eleven people were wounded in the attack, several seriously. The attack followed a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to northern Israel prompted by Hezbollah escalation between June 1 and June 4.

Hurfeish is near the border with Lebanon, but it was not evacuated in October unlike most of the Jewish communities in the area. This is because most of the minority communities along the border, such as Arab al-Aramshe and Jish, have refused to evacuate despite being under the shadow of war for almost eight months.

The local community council head of Hurfeish said his community lacks shelters in many homes, and he has not seen enough government support. Members of the Druze community, including in Hurfeish and in other communities in northern Israel, serve in the IDF. During the attack on Hufeish, warning sirens did not sound. The IDF said the incident is under review.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power