More than 300 tunnel shafts were located in the Hamas stronghold in southern Gaza.
JNS Staff Report
January 11, 2024
The Israel Defense Forces expanded its operations in Khan Yunis both above and below ground in the past 24 hours, exposing a vast terror tunnel beneath the southern Gaza City used by Hamas to hold hostages.
“The tunnel was connected to an extensive underground tunnel network beneath a civilian area in the city. Millions of shekels are estimated to have been invested in excavating the tunnel and equipping it with air ventilation systems, electrical supply and plumbing. After investigating the tunnel, it can be confirmed that Israeli hostages had been inside the tunnel,” the IDF said on Thursday morning.
To date, the official number of hostages still being held by Hamas is 136, some of whom are believed to have been killed in captivity. The terror group abducted 240 people during the bloody Oct. 7 rampage across the northwestern Negev in which 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were murdered and thousands more wounded. One hundred and ten hostages, mostly women and children, were released in November as part of a ceasefire agreement.
Hamas’s senior leader in the Strip, Yahya Sinwar, who masterminded the Oct. 7 massacre, is believed to be hiding in the Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis, where he has reportedly surrounded himself with a large number of living hostages.
More than 300 tunnel shafts have been located in Khan Yunis since the start of the IDF’s ground operation on Oct. 27, some of which lead to significant tunnels, tactical shafts, weapons storage facilities and combat areas, according to the army.
“So far, more than 100 tunnels have been destroyed and put out of use, in which, among other things, terrorists were eliminated,” the army said.
After two weeks of intense fighting, IDF troops on Wednesday gained control over the southern Gaza town of Khirbat Ikhza’a, a strategic focal point of Hamas terrorist activity near Khan Yunis, the military said.
Located less than a mile from the border with Israel, Khirbat Ikhza’a served as the staging area from which Hamas terrorists attacked the communities of Nir Oz, Nirim and Ein Hashlosha on Oct. 7.
Soldiers of the IDF’s 5th Brigade combat team destroyed Hamas infrastructure and killed dozens of Hamas terrorists during “Operation Oz and Nir,” which was launched in late December. In addition, some 40 attack tunnels were discovered and destroyed, the IDF said.
Nir Oz, a once-thriving community of 400 people, was among the hardest hit on Oct. 7. One in every four residents was either killed or kidnapped.
During his daily press briefing on Thursday evening, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesman, switched to English, as he addressed the plight of the 136 hostages still held by terrorist organizations in the Strip.
“We will never let the world forget the hostages being held by Hamas since Oct. 7. ‘Never again’ is our call to action. Because ‘Never again’ is now,” Hagari told reporters.
“It is important to remember that we are fighting a just war like no other—a war that the enemy started by choice and knowingly, during which he committed crimes against humanity and cruel acts that the Western world has not seen for decades,” he added.
Some 3,200 Israeli troops serving in Gaza have required treatment in the field by IDF Medical Corps soldiers, the army said on Thursday, noting that more than 400 nurses, 53 of whom are women, are participating in the ground operation, as of last week.
IDF medics applied at least 470 combat tourniquets, gave 60,150 units of blood and approximately 100 plasma transfusions, in addition to evacuating hundreds of soldiers, the IDF said.