Airstrikes On Hamas Tunnels After Ground Invasion Deception

The Israeli Defense Forces are claiming to have killed “dozens” of Hamas fighters in an extensive series of ground and air strikes on the organization’s underground tunnel network in the Gaza Strip on Thursday night. 150 different targets are said to have been struck, although an accurate death toll was not available due to killed fighters being buried in rubble.

160 aircraft of the Israeli Air Force worked in conjunction with artillery, tanks and infantry in position on the border with the Gaza Strip. Ground forces are said to have maneuvered to give the appearance of an imminent ground invasion of the Strip, driving Hamas fighters into what the IDF calls the “Metro” for refuge. Instead, the Israeli Air Force bombarded the tunnel network over the course of 40 minutes, while ground forces laid in wait for any Hamas fighters who tried to exit the Metro.

The deception was completed by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, which sent on the record messages to foreign correspondents currently in Israel, saying that a ground incursion into the Strip had begun. This led to an unusual scene as international media outlets seemingly beat Israeli news outlets to breaking news of a significant escalation.

Some Israeli news outlets with their own points of contact made their own inquiries into the apparent incursion, only to be notified that there were no Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. Around two hours after the first statement, the IDF confirmed that Israeli forces had not performed a ground incursion into the Strip, requiring retractions of the various stories since filed. 

In a phone briefing with international correspondents on Friday, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the IDF’s international spokesperson, apologized to international correspondents present for misleading them. He said that he would be taking full responsibility for the “accident”, blaming it on the fog of war.

Video of the airstrike on the al-Intaj bank building in Gaza City

Despite both the intense strikes and claims of diplomatic progress towards a ceasefire, rocket launches out of the Gaza Strip and IAF airstrikes continued in daylight today. Rocket attacks on Beersheba resulted in power disruptions to Lehavim, Eshkolot and Lahav that have since been restored using alternate power lines, while IDF airstrikes are said to have targeted a storage facility of the Hamas naval forces and a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility in northern Gaza in addition to destroying the al-Intaj bank building, itself near the Shifa hospital long rumored to serve as a bunker for Hamas leadership.

IDF units on the Gaza border continue to be resupplied with munitions, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that “this operation will continue for as long as necessary”. Certainly, last night’s deception had been supported by previous reports that the IDF had been moving assets into position ahead of governmental permission to mount a ground invasion. Despite that, or arguably demonstrated by last night, the IDF retains the element of surprise here.