Operating behind enemy lines in Gaza during the conflict with Hamas, the elite Maglan unit has attacked dozens of terrorist cells that fired on the IDF, destroyed areas used to launch rockets and killed and injured 40 terrorists in the last few days.
A senior source from the unit revealed that its members targeted Hamas gunmen waiting in ambush for the IDF’s ground forces, striking the threats before the soldiers passed by the would-be attackers.
The Maglan unit has detected and destroyed forward Hamas posts and rocket launchers. It detected a cross-border underground attack tunnel leading into Israel from Gaza, and found 20 bomb-laden, booby-trapped Gazan homes. The unit also uncovered a large quantity of weapons in raids.
The source said the company is operating in a heavily built up area, characterized by residential buildings, orchards surrounded by buildings, and tunnels. Hamas planted its military assets deep inside the very fabric of Gazan civilian life, he said.
“Hamas operatives and area commanders, as well as their rocket cell members, keep one part of their home for normal family life. A second part of the home is the command center, or the start of a tunnel. Daily life and military infrastructure are totally interwoven,” the source said.
“This is the source of the complexity we face in our combat. We must overcome the challenge of differentiating between Hamas and the civilian population,” he added. The Maglan unit has met the challenge, having detected a series of Hamas assets, he said.
The source added that in recent days, a recognizable wave of demoralization has washed over Hamas’s combat battalions. “They simply escape, leaving behind weapons and suicide bomb vests that were laid out for battle. This morning we stormed a position, and they just weren’t there. I don’t see a determined enemy. We have encountered stronger pockets of fighting in the past. But now, I would not give them a high grade for fighting spirit.”
Hamas built a network of tunnels that begin a few kilometers away from the Israeli border, and pass under the frontier, the source said, in a bid to enable dozens of terrorists to infiltrate the country. In response, the IDF has used a wide array of firepower and ground units to tackle the challenge, employing a rapid maneuver to “shatter the enemy and deny it freedom of operation in closed areas, where it is based,” he said.
“We move in as quickly as possible, engage in close combat, and prevent the enemy from using its tunnels to enter our territory,” the source said.
He recalled seizing large numbers of weapons, suicide bomb belts, and projectile launchers in recent raids.
“Hamas has turned tunneling into a national profession. They lean on highly skilled engineers to do this. We’re dealing with all of these threats through close-range combat,” the source added.
Working with the Artillery Corps, the infantry brigades, and the air force, the source said the Maglan unit is helping to tear apart Hamas’s infrastructure, describing the process as “peeling an onion, layer by layer.”
Hamas has built “defensive layers around the tunnels. They have attack positions in mosques, in the homes of operatives, and tunnels that allow terrorists to approach our forces,” he said.
“That requires very accurate and sometimes aggressive counter-measures by us. I know that all of the IDF’s units are accomplishing this mission, even though there are casualties. We understand that if we do not deal with these threats, they will come to our home front. If you talk to members of our unit, it is clear to all of us that if we don’t take care of this, if we don’t destroy these threats and thwart them, they will reach us in a much more aggressive way, and they will harm Israeli civilians and soldiers.”
Additionally, the source said, it is impossible to demolish the threats via long-range firepower.
Only a ground offensive that reaches the tunnel shafts can get the job done. “This shows that despite intelligence, there is no alternative to getting there and destroying targets from up close.”
Hamas has adapted well to Israel’s air power by going underground, but “it does not know how to deal with ground units that storm its assets. We have the upper hand, and this is showing results,” he added.
“I have not entered one civilian home that did not have weapons, suicide belts, or booby traps in it,” the source said. Any home found to be containing women and children leads to an immediate halt of the raid, he said.
“We hold our fire, there’s no question. We don’t take chances with children and women. We allow them to leave, and then continue the raid. That’s who we are, and this is the source of our strength,” he said.