Reporter's Notebook: Embedded with the IDF deep inside Hamas tunnels under UNRWA HQ

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There was not a batch of speech pinch nan Israeli Defense Forces contacts earlier this embed happened. After 4 months of this war, they person nan drill down to a strategy and nan IDF had thing they wanted to show nan extracurricular world.  

We loaded up onto Humvees. A worker stood successful nan beforehand seat, 1 manus connected nan rotation bar, nan different connected an automatic limb mounted to nan hood. At my near elbow was an Israeli type of a shoulder-mounted rocket arsenic good arsenic a spare rifle. 

For nan first 10 minutes of nan trip, we were still successful Israel. We traveled connected nan pavement. The person we sewage to nan Gaza Strip, nan roadworthy sewage rougher wherever nan sides had been surgery up by dense armored vehicles. Camps began to look wherever soldiers waited extracurricular nan obstruction for their orders to return to combat.

Once we passed nan obstruction into Gaza, nan scenery showed only destruction. I didn’t spot a building aliases building that wasn’t damaged. Most were flattened.

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The drivers went breakneck complete nan twisted and potholed soil roads until we arrived astatine nan campy for nan 401st armored section successful the Gaza Strip. Soldiers waited connected integrative chairs betwixt their vehicles. A fewer had wandered to nan formation to return pictures. Some did attraction connected nan large Merkava tanks.

We did not enactment long. We transferred into an Israeli Namer, armored unit carrier, for nan travel to nan Shati exile camp, conscionable northbound of nan organization halfway of Gaza City. Reports of Hamas fighters regrouping successful Gaza City created a reasonable consequence of an ambush, contempt Israel’s patient power of nan area.

When we climbed retired of nan armored conveyance astatine Shati, I could spot 360 degrees of destruction. Piles of ungraded and surgery concrete. All roads and sidewalks were broken. Everywhere we traveled was a matter of hiking up and complete piles of sand, either leftover from an detonation aliases churned up by tanks. Some of nan ample flat buildings were still standing, but achromatic fume stains streaked upward retired of astir windows. Occasionally, we would perceive nan ample ace of caller airstrikes successful nan area aliases machine-gun fire.

The first spot reporters were taken to was a kindergarten, made evident pinch paintings of SpongeBob and different cartoons connected nan walls. Lt. Col Idor of nan 401st armored brigade showed nan reporters maps of wherever nan tunnels stretched beneath us. Then we loaded backmost successful nan armor and drove to nan UNRWA headquarters, wherever soldiers had dug a good consecutive down to 1 of nan rooms that served arsenic a hub for energy successful nan tunnel. The lieutenant colonel pulled nan Velcro property identifier disconnected my assemblage armor and dropped it down nan hole. "You’ll get this later," he said.

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We were shown 2 rooms successful nan UNRWA office wherever wiring for computers, communications instrumentality and energy went consecutive underground. Then, ultimately, taken backmost to nan area of nan kindergarten to nan safest passageway entrance.

We had to get connected hands and knees and crawl for a spot astatine nan commencement of nan tunnel. Once inside, we could guidelines and walk. Sometimes, erstwhile nan ceiling wasn’t precocious enough, we crouched. Sometimes, erstwhile it was bad enough, we crawled again. At a fewer points, we hiked done h2o that was astir apt filthy.

The tunnels are dramatically different than nan ones I crawled successful nether nan border pinch Egypt much than a decade ago. The modern ones are reinforced pinch concrete. There is actual underfoot. At immoderate locations Hamas spent nan effort to tile nan tunnels and nan rooms built disconnected to nan side. They had moving plumbing and modern toilets. The tile activity was good. In 1 location, it looked for illustration Hamas had built a java shop, wherever they could return a break, because nan ornamental tile was each astir coffee. 

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We hiked astir apt little than a half mile, arriving underneath nan UNRWA headquarters, wherever I recovered my property identifier. Lt. Col Idor showed america a room 25 feet heavy filled pinch machine servers, different room pinch communications instrumentality and still different that was an electrical junction for nan tunnels. All of it connected to nan office building supra pinch extended wiring.

The soldiers made nan point, location was no measurement Hamas could person installed each of that, made nan building noise, and moved truckload aft truckload of ungraded retired of nan tunnels without UNRWA labor being aware.

"Our problem is nan Hamas," said Lt. Col Idor. "Hamas moving successful nan UNRWA and nether nan UNRWA."

UNRWA released a connection saying they are a humanitarian statement without nan capacity aliases expertise to behaviour "military inspections" of what mightiness beryllium nether its premises.