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Soldier stands guard in Gaza
Photo: AP
IDF uncovers kidnapping tunnel
Officer leading soldiers into Gaza describes difficult groundwork involved in military operation, says force has so far discovered tunnels intended for abducting troops, weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, and booby-trapped buildings in civilian centers

A paratrooper force operating near the northern Gaza Strip neighborhood of al-Atatra identified a tunnel intended for the kidnapping of soldiers Tuesday. The tunnel's opening was hidden by a doll. The force also uncovered a number of weapons caches.

 

In addition, the Air Force (IAF) struck 40 targets Tuesday morning, among these a vehicle carrying an anti-aircraft missile launcher.

 

A senior IDF officer spoke to Ynet from the depth of the Strip, through an encoded phone. "We are finding a lot of tunnels, weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, grenades, explosive devices, and weapons prepared for future attacks, such as motorbikes intended for kidnapping," he said.

 

The officer, who has been leading his soldiers into Gaza since the beginning of the operation, described a complicated reality in which weapons and foundations of a terror industry are being found in populated city centers.

 

"We may not be fighting against an army, but there are a lot of incidents of battle here, from short range as well, and we are working in a slow and thorough manner," the officer added.

 

"Many civilians fled when the battles erupted; some of them left their homes quickly just the way they were – sometimes in the middle of a meal," he said.

 

"But sometimes groups of civilians walk by. For example, women and children walk by with a white flag. We don't harm them of course, but almost every hour we receive information about (female) suicide bombers that want to explode near soldiers. That's why – aside from the emotional and humanitarian aspect – we are careful to preserve the health of our soldiers," the officer added. 

 

Booby-trapped homes, mosques

The officer said there have been many cases in which Hamas gunmen have advanced on soldiers. On Monday a terrorist made his way towards an area in which soldiers were patrolling and opened fire. The patrol returned fire and the terrorist was killed.

 

He added that Hamas was wary of engaging in "normal" exchanges of fire with IDF soldiers. He said they prefer to employ the element of surprise and to come as close as possible to the forces. In other instances mortar shells or sharpshooters are used.

 

The officer said many homes throughout the Strip were booby-trapped. "We are attempting to proceed slowly and to use the Engineer Corps, dogs, and any other means we have at our disposal in order to refrain from falling into their traps. We also discovered a booby-trapped mosque, and blew it up," he said.

 

He said Hamas tends to booby-trap houses in such a way that the first step would set off an explosion, after which gunmen would attempt to kidnap the soldiers or their bodies through underground tunnels.

 

"This forces us to act aggressively towards the structures and buildings," the officer said. "The damage being done here is great in order to uncover all of Hamas' traps. We don't act gently, and leave scars on the ground and the buildings in order to protect our soldiers."

 

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