Some 3,800 IDF Attacks Launched on Gaza During Current War

To date Israel has taken 179 Gazans prisoner, a substantial number of whom turned out to be noncombatants.

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Searching for bodies in a wrecked apartment building in Khan Yunis.Credit: AP

The Israel Defense Forces’ bank of targets in Gaza after Operation Pillar of Defense stood at about zero. But during the ensuing year and a half until the launch of Operation Protective Edge, Military Intelligence identified 1,200 targets to attack. Most of them were rocket-related or weapons storage sites.

According to army data, before this round of fighting in Gaza, intelligence sources had information on 75 tunnels designated as battle tunnels – dug within Gaza to be used by militants to maneuver underground and confront IDF ground forces that entered the Strip, as opposed to the attack tunnels dug under the border into Israel – and another 30 targets defined as “air defense” targets, i.e., UAVs or anti-aircraft missiles.

During the current operation, intelligence agencies have identified twice as many targets as they had previous to it, which has manifested itself in the massive assault by the Israel Air Force and the Southern Command. The army says that it launched 3,800 attacks in the Strip during the three weeks of fighting, with some of the targets hit twice. The defense establishment says, however, that there are enough additional targets in Gaza to continue the offensive for another several days.

The military says that intelligence collected during the operation is based on visual intelligence and signal intelligence, but also on the interrogation of prisoners.

To date 179 Gazans have been taken prisoner and questioned by Unit 504 or by the Shin Bet Security Service. A substantial number of the prisoners turned out to be noncombatants, but several prisoners were Hamas operatives. Several operatives had been in the tunnels for several days, and supplied intelligence information on the location of other shafts in their areas. The IDF says that Military Intelligence had advance warning of some of the tunnel attacks that have taken place during this operation, but not all of them.

Commanders of the brigades fighting in the Strip say that they had good tactical intelligence – advance warning of antitank fire, for example, or of booby-trapped homes in their area of operation. The IDF says the intelligence they had on the tunnels was good, but some of the commanders claim that a number of tunnels were only discovered by the forces in the field.

For nearly two weeks now, the IDF ground forces in the Strip have been working to locate all the tunnels, particularly those that cross under the border into Israeli territory. To date the military has destroyed some two-thirds of the tunnels that have been discovered, but officers in the field say this is complex work, and that trying to track down all the shafts and openings leading from a given tunnel demands a large investment of resources. The IDF is now using huge ventilators and smoke machines for this purpose. It appears that the tunnel used to carry out the attack south of the Karni Crossing on Monday had already been discovered by the IDF, but all its openings were not known.