There are tunnels which can have no other purpose than to inflict harm on Israel and its citizens. These are the reports of the intentions behind the building of such tunnels.
Leaks have begun to trickle out on what Israeli interogators are learning from captured Hamas fighters. One plot in particular is getting overwhelming attention.
Hamas was apparently a few months away from conducting a mass attack on Israeli civilians during the upcoming Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, on September 24. The raid would have been like something out of a movie: hundreds of heavily-armed Hamas fighters would have emerged from over a dozen underground tunnels in the dead of night, jogged 10 minutes to their targets, and then infiltrated a set of lightly-populated and lightly-guarded Israeli communities. Casualties could have reached the thousands, and some of the victims would have been taken back alive as hostages.
The offensive attack tunnels seem to quite literally have been built for this kind of purpose. The IDF recently published a map of how they were dug to spill out on both sides of nearby communities (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BtYjL4mCAAAI6c6.png). Israeli soldiers have been reporting that just inside some of the tunnels were storage units filled with tranquilizers, handcuffs, ropes, and so on.
The reports on this are mostly in Hebrew right now (the original one is here if you want it: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/600/825.html?hp=1&cat=875&loc=1). There are bits and pieces are getting translated on blogs and in think tank bulletins. The Gatestone Institute’s Lawrence Franklin has the best English-language I’ve seen so far, and I’ve pasted it below.
If the reports are confirmed, there are some immediate adjustments that analysts, journalists, and diplomats will all but certainly make:
(1) A ceasefire without at least the destruction of Hamas’s tunnel network would likely becomes a non-starter. It would be militarily untenable – and probably politically impossible – for Israeli leaders to accept anything less.
(2) The inevitable Israeli investigation into pre-conflict failures – and the Israelis always hold these, no matter how well things go – will have to take into account both how so many tunnels got built and why Israeli intelligence failed to crack the tunnel plot earlier. There’s a lot of focus right now on the former, but a lot of the digging and earth moving happened underground. It’s the latter debate, about sigint and humint, that has the potential to cost people careers.
(3) Confirmation of the plot would raise the stakes in the growing controversy over how human rights groups and diplomatic bodies pressured the Israelis into liberalizing restrictions on cement imports. Kilometers and kilometers of reinforced tunnels were being built deep into Israeli territory while Gaza-based offiicals railed against cement shortages. Some critics have already begun to name names, and the debate is already become very granular: TIP held a conference call yesterday in which one expert described how Hamas filled emptied UNRWA relief bags with dirt and then drove them away in UN-painted trucks, so that drones overhead saw what looked like a UN-sanctioned aid convoy.
(4) The public debate over the degree to which Operation Protective Edge was a “war of choice” for the Israelis would become constrained. A full-blown war would be seen as in some sense inevitable, with the only difference being whether it came before or after the Jewish High Holidays this fall.
The picture is there as a reminder of how ISIS-types treat people of their own religion. How much is too much for Israel to protect itself and its citizens?