- Efforts to pump in seawater to corrode the network have not been successful
LONDON: Israel has failed to destroy Hamas’ tunnel system, leaving 80 percent of the network still intact, US and Israeli officials have told The Wall Street Journal.
When Israel launched its war on Gaza in October, one of its primary goals was to destroy the region’s tunnel network, which is estimated to be 300 miles long.
The Israeli military has used a variety of tactics to penetrate the network, including sending dogs equipped with cameras to search the tunnels before action by the Israel Defense Forces, flooding them with seawater from the Mediterranean, and pounding them with airstrikes.
But officials estimate that only 20 to 40 percent of the tunnels have been damaged or rendered inoperable, with the majority located in northern Gaza.
Efforts to pump in seawater to corrode the network have not been as successful as initially thought, the Journal reported.
The report also said that it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage to the underground labyrinth because it was not known how far the tunnels stretch.
Israel’s military has argued that destroying the network would deny Hamas’ leadership and fighters a safe haven, while also hitting its command and control centers.
However, hostages are believed to be in the tunnels, posing a dilemma for the Israelis.
Israel has intensified its military operations in the past week in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, where the army believes Hamas’ top leader Yahya Sinwar is hiding in the tunnel network.
Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations and Palestinians in Gaza have said that the location of the ground fighting is intentional, with its goal being to push the population of 2.2 million people toward Egypt while displacing them.