Hamas’s Strategy Rests on Its Tunnels

On Saturday, the IDF announced that it had recently discovered an underground lair in southern Gaza where hostages had been held. This news follows reports that the subterranean network, built with North Korean technical assistance, is far more extensive and complex than Israeli intelligence had estimated—likely totaling between 350 and 450 miles in length. Hamas operatives continue to build shafts leading into the tunnels, even as the IDF continues to destroy them. John Spencer explains the purpose of these passageways, and the challenge they pose:

The sheer size of Hamas’s underground networks may, once fully discovered, be beyond anything a modern military has ever faced. . . . For the first time in the history of tunnel warfare, . . . Hamas has built a tunnel network to gain not just a military advantage, but a political advantage as well. . . . Hamas weaved its vast tunnel networks into the society on the surface. Destroying the tunnels is virtually impossible without having an adverse effect on the population living in Gaza.

Hamas’s strategy is . . . not to hold terrain or defeat an attacking force. Its strategy is about time. It is about creating time for international pressure on Israel to stop its military operation to mount. . . . It wants the world’s attention on the question of whether the IDF campaign is violating the laws of war in attacking Hamas tunnels that are tightly connected to civilian and protected sites. It wants to buy as much time as is needed to cause the international community to stop Israel. Its entire strategy is built on tunnels.

Arguably, no military in the world is as well prepared for subterranean tactical challenges as the IDF. But the strategic challenge is entirely different. To destroy many of the deep-buried tunnels, the IDF has required bunker-busting bombs, which Israel is criticized for using. And most importantly it has required time to find and destroy the tunnels in a conflict in which Hamas’s strategy is aimed at limiting the time available to Israel to conduct its campaign.

Hamas’s strategy, then, is founded on tunnels and time.

Read more at Modern War Institute

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy