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40,000 Operatives in Tunnels: How Hamas Plans To Trap Israeli Troops

Israel has deployed overwhelming aerial firepower since the October 7 Hamas attack

Team Parvasi – Inside

40,000 Operatives in Tunnels: How Hamas Plans To Trap Israeli Troops

Gaza: Hamas has prepared for a long, drawn-out war in the Gaza Strip and believes it can hold up Israel’s advance long enough to force its arch-enemy to agree to a ceasefire, two sources close to the organization’s leadership said.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, has stockpiled weapons, missiles, food and medical supplies, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation. The group is confident its thousands of fighters can survive for months in a city of tunnels carved deep beneath the Palestinian enclave and frustrate Israeli forces with urban guerrilla tactics, the people told Reuters.

Ultimately, Hamas believes international pressure for Israel to end the siege, as civilian casualties mount, could force a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement that would see the \group emerge with a tangible concession such as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages, the sources said.

The group has made it clear to the U.S. and Israel at indirect, Qatar-mediated hostage negotiations that it wants to force such a prisoner release in exchange for hostages, according to four Hamas officials, a regional official, and a person familiar with the White House’s thinking.

Longer term, Hamas has said it wants to end Israel’s 17-year blockade of Gaza, as well as to halt Israeli settlement expansion and what Palestinians see as heavy-handed actions by Israeli security forces at the al-Aqsa mosque, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

On Thursday, U.N. experts called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, saying Palestinians there were at “grave risk of genocide”. Many experts see a spiraling crisis, with no clear endgame in sight for either side.

“The mission to destroy Hamas is not easily achieved,” said Marwan Al-Muasher, Jordan’s former foreign minister and deputy prime minister who now works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“There is no military solution to this conflict. We are in some dark times. This war is not going to be short.”

Israel has deployed overwhelming aerial firepower since the Oct. 7 attack, which saw Hamas gunmen burst out of the Gaza Strip, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking 239 hostages.

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The Gazan death count has surpassed 9,000, with every day of violence fuelling protests around the world over for the plight of more than 2 million Gazans trapped in the tiny enclave, many without water, food or power. Israeli airstrikes hit a crowded refugee camp in Gaza on Tuesday, killing at least 50 Palestinians and a Hamas commander.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to wipe out Hamas and has rejected calls for a ceasefire. Israeli officials say they’re under no illusions about what may lie ahead and accuse the operatives of hiding behind civilians.

The country has braced itself for a “long and painful war”, said Danny Danon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and ex-member of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee.

“We know at the end that we will prevail and that we will defeat Hamas,” he told Reuters. “The question will be the price, and we have to be very cautious and very careful and understand that it’s a very complex urban area to maneuver.”

The United States has said now is not the time for a general ceasefire, though says pauses in hostilities are needed to deliver humanitarian aid.

Adeeb Ziadeh, a Palestinian expert in international affairs at Qatar University who has studied Hamas, said the group must have had a longer-term plan to follow its assault on Israel.

“Those who carried out the Oct. 7 attack with its level of proficiency, this level of expertise, precision and intensity, would have prepared for a long-term battle. It’s not possible for Hamas to engage in such an attack without being fully prepared and mobilized for the outcome,” Ziadeh told Reuters.

Washington expects Hamas to try to bog Israeli forces down in street-by-street combat in Gaza and inflict heavy enough military casualties to also Israeli public support for a drawn-out conflict, said the source familiar with the White House’s thinking, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely.

Israeli officials have nonetheless stressed to their American counterparts that they’re prepared to confront Hamas’ guerrilla tactics as well as withstand international criticism of their offensive, according to the person. Whether the country has the capability to eliminate Hamas or merely severely degrade the organization remains an open question, the source added.

Hamas has about 40,000 fighters, according to the sources at the group. They can move around the enclave using a vast web of fortified tunnels, hundreds of kilometers long and up to 80 meters deep, built over many years.

NEWS

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