“Netanyahu’s Tunnel Conflict Risk to ‘Eradicate Hamas’ and Stay in Power” | Israel-Palestine Conflict News


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Benjamin Netanyahu’s position as prime minister of Israel is in jeopardy. Many Israelis blame him and his cabinet for security failures and criticize his handling of the war on Gaza. Corruption charges and plans to change the judicial system have also drawn criticism. Polls show that he would likely be forced to step down if elections were held now.

As Israeli forces move deeper into southern Gaza, Netanyahu faces a decision that could have major political ramifications: whether to send Israeli troops into the 500km tunnel network below Gaza. If Israel enters the tunnel network, it would change the dynamics of the war, according to Philip Ingram, MBE, a former British military intelligence officer. Hamas has a sophisticated network of tunnels that would pose a significant threat to Israeli troops.

The challenges for the Israelis would be enormous due to a lack of sufficient information on the tunnels, their length, and potential booby traps. The Israel military has a specialized tunnel-warfare unit, but the reality of what is down there remains largely unknown, making it very risky. Experts believe a potential conflict in the tunnels remains a probable outcome due to Netanyahu’s promise to eliminate Hamas and its underground command centers.

There were media reports that Israel would consider using poison gas in the tunnels to eradicate Hamas fighters. The Wall Street Journal recently said Israel could be weighing up flooding the tunnels with seawater as an alternative to troops having to enter. Netanyahu committed to destroying Hamas as one of the responses to the attack on October 7. He may ultimately decide to send troops into the tunnels to save his political career, despite the risk of huge casualties.

It is not just the defeat of Hamas that Netanyahu has promised but also the release of the 125 captives Israel says are still in Gaza. Israel believes the captives are kept in the underground networks below Gaza, which means access to the tunnels will be viewed as crucial by the Israeli forces tasked with freeing them. A military operation in the tunnels could also put these captives at risk, something else that Netanyahu may be willing to risk to secure the defeat of Hamas.

The decision to enter the tunnels will be made after weighing risks against benefits. Israel may continue to map the network from above, using ground-penetrating radar and looking to identify key command centers which they can target specifically by blowing a hole in the network. The Israeli military is facing an unprecedented task and will need to be incredibly cautious.

When Israel could attempt to enter the tunnels remains unclear. Israel is under pressure in the face of mounting global criticism and war crimes and crimes against humanity. Setting a specific timetable for ground operations is a challenge for any military commander. If Israeli troops do enter the tunnel network, it could spell a prolonged conflict, played out underground in an information vacuum.

World, Politics, Military

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