Yahalom unit commander: More tunnels than Lebanon

Lt.-Col. Amir says morale is high and "where we need to confront the terrorists we know what to do."

smuggling tunnel 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
smuggling tunnel 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Tunnels of different kinds and sizes, attempts to kidnap soldiers and booby-trapped homes are some of the challenges the IDF's elite Yahalom Combat Engineering Corps Unit is facing in the Gaza Strip, the unit's commander said Wednesday. "There are a lot of tunnels of different kinds, in some ways even more than what we saw in the Second Lebanon War," Lt.-Col. Amir said Wednesday night during a briefing with reporters along the Gaza border. "But the morale is high among the troops and even though it is only natural to be scared, where we need to confront the terrorists we know what to do." On Tuesday morning, St.-Sgt. Alexander Mashevizky, a veteran soldier with Yahalom, was killed and four other soldiers from a joint Golani-Engineering Corps force were lightly hurt in a gunbattle with a Hamas gunman in northern Gaza City. "The force was sent in to sweep a home and found that it was surrounded by bombs," Lt.-Col. Amir said. "They then went inside and in one of the rooms there was a terrorist who opened fire and killed Alexander." Lt.-Col. Amir said that Yahalom soldiers, who were dispersed throughout the different brigades in Gaza, were using weaponry that they had not used before in Gaza. "We are very aggressive," he said. "We do not hesitate to use different methods to protect the troops on the ground. We are hitting an enemy that wants to strike at us," he added. Lt.-Col. Amir said that the forces in Gaza were not, as the IDF had predicted, encountering large contingents of Hamas gunmen. "There were some clashes but we are not seeing large units of Hamas moving towards us," he said. "We are encountering many different obstacles such as bombs and other physical barriers that are booby-trapped."