Israel announced Monday that it has destroyed miles of tunnels used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. In addition, the Jewish state has also killed a top commander belonging to the Palestine Islamic Jihad movement as part of its operations in Gaza.
“Our fighter jets neutralized 9.3 miles of the Hamas ‘Metro’ terror tunnel system overnight. That’s 9.3 miles that can no longer be used for terror,” the Israel Defense Forces announced in a Sunday tweet, describing the tunnel network as being about the size of “163 football fields, 46 Eiffel Towers, 34 Empire State Buildings, 18 Burj Khalifas, and nearly 2 Mt. Everests.”
According to a Saturday report in The Jerusalem Post, the “Metro” is a tunnel network with “dozens of kilometers” of tunnels used by Hamas militants to seek refuge from Israeli air operations. It was built following Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, The Post reported.
Aircrafts belonging to the IDF have managed to successfully destroy stretches of this tunnel network which criss-cross underneath Gaza, as reported by the IDF in the tweet on Sunday.
On Saturday, the IDF published a video showing an animated illustration of the “Metro” and how Israel is destroying it.
While the IDF’s Sunday tweet did not specify which night the “overnight” attack occurred, we know that since the beginning of the conflict, Israel has been engaging in operations targeting tunnel networks belonging to Hamas, attacking tunnel shafts and other parts of the militant group’s tunnel infrastructure.
Information on Israel’s operations can be accessed from the IDF’s Telegram channel, where it posts regular updates on its operations.
The most significant attack on the tunnel system came on Thursday.
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On Thursday, before Israel conducted what The Times of Israel described as the “heaviest strike yet” on Gaza, the country reportedly duped Hamas militants and foreign media into thinking that it was conducting a ground invasion into Gaza.
Anticipating Israeli troops entering Gaza, Hamas militants reportedly fled into the tunnel network to hide.
The invasion never came. Instead, multiple militants reportedly became sitting ducks for a massive IDF bombardment intended to take out the tunnel network.
The tunnels are only part of Hamas’ infrastructure that Israel is targeting. Israel has also targeted banks, safe houses, and other structures the group uses covertly and overtly for its purposes. On Monday, the IDF said it had destroyed five houses belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders. The buildings were, according to the IDF, part of Hamas’ “terrorist infrastructure.” The houses struck are:
- “The home of Izz al-Din Hadad, a senior member of the Hamas military wing and the head of combat support during recent hostilities.”
- “The house of Amjad Abu Najeh, the commander of the Nuhba battalion in the Gaza Strip, who directed attacks from his home.”
- “The house of Ibrahim Muhammad Mustafa Qareh, the commander of the southern Khan Yunis battalion, who was involved in shooting attacks against IDF forces as well as responsible for rocket fire at Israel.”
- “The house of Ahmed Shamali, the commander of the Nuhba battalion in Shuja’iyya. The building contained military communications infrastructure and stored weapons.”
- “The home of Nasim Abu ‘Ajuna, commander of the Beit Lahia Battalion, whose house contained military infrastructure for combat operations.”
Besides targeting militants’ infrastructure, Israel has also engaged in liquidating members, including senior officials, of Palestinian militant groups during its current operation, “Guardian of the Walls,” in Gaza.
Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have lost many of their officials to Israeli strikes, which came in response to constant barrages of rockets both groups fired at Israel, killing and injuring multiple Israelis.
On Monday afternoon local time, Israel killed Hussam Abu Harbid, “Abu Ubaida,” the commander of the Northern Brigade of the Saraya al-Quds, the armed wing of the Palestine Islamic Jihad.
He is not to be confused with the spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obeida (alternatively spelled as Abu Ubeida).
In a tweet in which the IDF released battle footage showing IDF aircraft conducting the airstrike that killed Abu Harbid, the organization wrote, “This is the moment we targeted Islamic Jihad [Saraya Al Quds] Northern Division Commander in Gaza, Hussam Abu Harbid. As an Islamic Jihad commander for 15 years, he was behind rocket launches, shootings, & anti-tank missile attacks on Israel. He won’t be committing any more terrorist attacks.”
This is the moment we targeted Islamic Jihad Northern Division Commander in Gaza, Hussam Abu Harbid.
As an Islamic Jihad commander for 15 years, he was behind rocket launches, shootings, & anti-tank missile attacks on Israel.
He won’t be committing any more terrorist attacks. pic.twitter.com/hbwFsSjjq3
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 17, 2021
The Islamic Jihad confirmed Abu Harbid died in a statement calling him a “beloved martyr” who died “soldiering and performing his duties.”
The group wrote, “The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and its military wing, Saraya al-Quds, mourned the martyr Commander Hussam Abu Harbid, ‘Abu Ubaida,’ the commander of the Northern Brigade in the Saraya al-Quds, who was martyred in the battle Sayf al-Quds [Sword of Jerusalem].”
Before Harbid’s death, Israel had taken out three other Islamic Jihad commanders, according to The Times of Israel.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are categorized as terrorist groups by the United States, Canada, the European Union, Israel, and several other countries.
The Israel Defense Forces conducted both the aforementioned missions — destroying the tunnels and killing Harbid — as part of a series of raids the country has been undertaking against Palestinian militant groups in Gaza who have waged a battle called “Sayf Al-Quds” or “Sword of Jerusalem” against Israel.
For weeks leading up to May 10, Palestinian militant groups, namely Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, have been coordinating with each other under a “Joint Operations Room” to attack Israel.
On May 10, just as Israel celebrated Jerusalem Day, the day when the city was reunited under Jewish control after 2,000 years, the terror groups fired a barrage of missiles targeting major parts of Israel, including Jerusalem, forcing several Israelis to run to bomb shelters as the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system worked overtime to protect the Holy Land.
While the groups had been firing missiles earlier into Israel in the weeks leading to May 10, the barrages that followed Jerusalem Day were bigger in number and have become a regular occurrence.
One can access data of Palestinian rocket fire and locations targeted through the Israeli missile-warning system Red Alerts – Cumta.
As of Monday, the rocket fire continues.
According to the most recent numbers, as of May 17, the Israel Defense Forces set the number of rockets fired towards Israel by Palestinian militants based and operating in the Gaza Strip to “approximately 3,350 rockets,” of which nearly “500 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip.”
Many of these rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system at a 90 percent interception rate. If it were not for the Iron Dome, Israel might have seen a mass murder of its Jewish and Arab residents at the hands of Palestinian militants.
Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza have also caused multiple civilian casualties, in some cases wiping out entire families. Israel has been criticized for such a number of civilian deaths, which it says were unintended, as reported by Business Insider.
Multiple videos circulating on social media show children distressed by the airstrikes Israel has conducted on the Gaza Strip.
One video published by TRT World shows a father, now dead due to an Israeli airstrike, trying to calm his daughters who were playing with a toy until the noise of an Israeli warplane frightened them.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the conflict has resulted in 212 deaths, including 61 children, 36 women and 16 elderly people. In addition, roughly 1,400 civilians, including 400 children and 270 women, have been injured. However, it is important to note that the death count, excluding women, children and the elderly, also includes militants killed alongside civilian males.
It is also important to consider that not all of the missiles the militants fired made it across to Israel. Some of them fell within Gaza at risk of striking buildings there, injuring and killing civilians. A video the IDF released Thursday shows a Hamas rocket aimed at Israel misfiring and crashing in Gaza.
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