International

The Underground Challenge: Gaza’s Tunnels and Israel’s Struggle

How Al-Qassem Forces Use Secret Tunnels to Redefine Conflict Dynamics

On October 7, the first day of Operation al-Aqsa Storm, Gaza’s fighters launched a surprise attack on the Erez crossing point and its military base, resulting in the death and capture of many Israeli soldiers inside the well-fortified centre.

This operation was a bold move by the fighters, who identified themselves as the al-Qassem forces. They aimed to demonstrate their strength and resistance against the Israeli occupation.

The Israelis were shocked by the attack and quickly started to prepare for a ground invasion. They gathered a significant number of troops near Gaza, especially around Erez.

However, 20 days later, the al-Qassem forces struck again, using their secret tunnel network to sneak behind the Israeli lines and attack Erez. Remarkably, the tunnels remained intact despite heavy Israeli bombing.
The Israelis did not anticipate this attack, believing they had sealed off all access to Erez, and they were also preoccupied with advancing in the north towards Beit Hanoun.

But the al-Qassem forces didn’t stop there. On October 29, they launched another attack west of Erez, employing anti-tank rockets to destroy some of the Israeli vehicles and then engaging them in close combat. The Israeli army and a U.S. think tank confirmed the complexity of the Palestinian operation.

The Israelis recognized that their bombing and ground assaults were insufficient to halt the al-Qassem forces. They were unable to locate or destroy the tunnels and were uncertain about the next moves of the fighters, who continued to advance into the crowded refugee camps in Gaza.
Additionally, the al-Qassem forces demonstrated their ability to reach the Israeli coast. On the first day of the operation, they infiltrated the Zikim settlement south of Ashkelon, engaging the Israeli forces there. Two of the fighters lost their lives in the battle.

Three days later, the Israelis dispatched a large infantry force to Zikim to secure the area and prevent further attacks. However, they needed to be corrected. The al-Qassem forces attacked them again in Zikim, this time with a group of 15 fighters. Conflicting reports suggested they arrived by sea or through a tunnel, but the outcome remained the same: the Israelis needed help to prevent attacks from behind their lines.

Furthermore, the al-Qassem forces made another significant move by targeting Israeli forces near al-Atatra in the northwest of Gaza. The Israelis had reached this area after several days of advancement, encountering resistance from the fighters at multiple points.

On Saturday, the al-Qassem forces struck from behind, approximately 300 meters from the front line, forcing the Israelis to retreat about 400 meters back to the Gaza wall. They attempted to set fire to the location where the attack occurred, but it was too late.

The al-Qassem forces have demonstrated their fearlessness in the face of the Israeli army. They have utilized their tunnels for surprise attacks, inflicting heavy losses on their opponents. Additionally, they have showcased their ability to reach the Israeli coast and challenge the Israeli forces there, firmly establishing themselves as a formidable presence.

Alok Verma

Alok Verma is an accomplished International Reporter at IndiaFocus with a deep-seated passion for global affairs and cross-border stories. With an impressive track record in international journalism, Alok is dedicated… More »

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