Even as the IDF declared that the military had finished the mission to demolish "all known tunnels" on Tuesday and GOC Southern Command said that "southern residents can return to their homes and feel safe" – some sources believe that Hamas still retains two to three tunnels into Israel even after Operation Protective Edge.
The IDF's current incursion into the Gaza Strip ended Tuesday morning with a withdrawal of forces and the beginning of a 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. The IDF's mission in Gaza was not to defeat the military wing of Hamas – though it was prepared for such an operation.
The IDF believed that, if required, any ground incursion of greater significance into Gaza would bear a heavy price, but that demand was never made by the political establishment.
On Sunday a senior source in the IDF General Staff said that an occupation of Gaza could be completed within ten days – but would have devolved into guerilla warfare that could last as long as two years until the eradication of Hamas' terror apparatus.
However, on Tuesday a senior officer stressed that "the operation is not over; the forces are organized on the border and are prepared for an immediate entry if required. We are tracking Hamas which is under great duress from within and without."
But the senior source also agreed that "we have hit the decisive majority of the tunnels in Hamas' hands. Hamas invested tens of millions into this tunnel system and was preparing other significant measures, which all went to waste."
The senior source stressed that "the operation led to a severe hit on (Hamas') infrastructure and capabilities."
"The fighting was complex – residential areas, crowded, complicated, with a wide underground network in between. We found whole homes and streets booby trapped, we encountered anti-tank missiles, mortar fire, sniper fire, and close-quarters combat," said GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman.
"In every place where we operated, our forces successfully subdue the enemy and to defeat him, to cope with his capabilities and neutralize them. Our forces won in every area, achieved their objectives with great success. Our commanders deserve much appreciation."