Tuesday 28 January 2020

'How can we be sure these tunnels are really destroyed?'

An Israeli couple sleeps in a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon. Reuters
An Israeli couple sleeps in a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon. Reuters
A Palestinian family looks through their damaged home after returning to Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian family carries their belongings towards the remains of their destroyed home after returning to Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
The ruins of destroyed houses are seen in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the east of Gaza City. Reuters
Palestinian children waving Hamas flags cheer as they stand on Israeli military equipment, which witnesses said was left behind by Israeli forces during a ground offensive, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Backdropped by the damaged minaret of the Al-Azba mosque, Palestinians inspect the damage to the Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip. AP
An Israeli soldier from the Nahal Brigade carry equipment after returning to Israel from Gaza. Reuters
Palestinians salvage their belongings from their house, which witnesses said was badly damaged during the Israeli offensive, in the east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinians crowd into an ice cream shop during the first day of a three day ceasefire, in Gaza City. Reuters
An Israeli soldier gestures from atop a tank after crossing the border back into Israel. Reuters

Maayan Lubell

Many Israelis living on the Gaza border were unconvinced by their military's announcement that its mission was accomplished in a nearly month-long campaign aimed at ending rocket strikes and tunnel infiltration.

Israel's government, they said, had taken too long to deal with the network of underground passages Palestinian militants had been digging for years, and it may have acted prematurely in pulling the army out of Gaza on Tuesday, just before the start of a 72-hour truce.

"They knew about it for so long and did nothing. Who can promise me that all the tunnels have been destroyed? I am angry that they are not pressing on with the offensive," said Leah Musafi (30), who lives in Nir Am, a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Two weeks ago, residents of the kibbutz, or collective farm, were locked down for hours after militants from Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates Gaza, crossed through a tunnel about 1.5 kilometres away. Ten Gaza gunmen and four Israeli soldiers were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

After the Israeli offensive began on July 8, lockdown quickly became a regular event, with several infiltrations during the fighting. Musafi and her children, along with many other families, left Nir Am while the battles raged.

"There are soldiers here now, but for how long? A week? Two? Then they'll forget us. There will be an infiltration, people will be killed. If we are told one more time to lock ourselves up at home, I am taking my kids and leaving," she said.

Another Nir Am resident, who asked not to be identified, stood guard, weapon in hand, with two soldiers guarding its gate.

"The army knew about the tunnels but they tried to keep it from the residents," he said. "There are probably more tunnels here."

Irish Independent

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