The discovery of an attack tunnel using new Israeli technological and intelligence means is a historic development, and one that could mark the beginning of the end of Hamas’s weapon of choice.
Hamas’s military wing invests millions of shekels in the construction of each cross-border tunnel, and employs hundreds of diggers to create each one.
They work in shifts, around the clock, for months and years, to create attack options viewed by Hamas leadership as its main strategic gambit against Israel.
But Israel has proven that something dramatic has changed in its ability to see the underground threat branching out from Gaza.
Now, Hamas will have to reluctantly go back to the drawing board and consider whether it is worth investing all those resources into a project that soon could become very visible to the Israeli defense establishment.
The tunnels are supposed to enable Hamas to inject its highly trained and heavily armed Nuhba Force members into Israel in a future war.
These terrorist units would then act as death squads, murdering and maiming Israeli civilians, and seeking to capture or kill any IDF soldiers they come across by surprising them from within the Israeli home front.
The Nuhba Force, comprising a quarter of Hamas’s 20,000-strong military wing, needs the tunnels to get into Israel since its over ground movements would swiftly be detected by the IDF’s array of sensors, patrols and platforms (some of which are unmanned) that secure the Gaza border.
Now, Israel has thrown the ball into Hamas’s court and placed it in a dilemma.
That development also has allowed the government and military decision-makers to back away from an earlier pledge of firm retaliation against every instance of Hamas violating Israeli sovereignty.
If the tunnels can now be detected and destroyed without a major conflict that disrupts the lives of millions of Israelis, decision-makers will find the idea of launching an operation in response to every Hamas dig to be far less attractive.
Either way, a new reality is developing along the Gaza border, which has already earned itself a new term within the IDF: “Continuous underground security missions.”
Israeli defense industries and IDF Engineering Corps units are spearheading the effort, and they have been joined by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Together, they have developed a twopronged approach to tunnel detection.
If Israel replicates its success in finding the attack tunnel, Hamas could end up losing its most precious offensive capability.