Dangerous Battleground in Gaza — and Intelligence Officers Advance with the Troops

Israel’s military announced early Sunday (20 July) that the ground incursion into Gaza that began Thursday is being expanded.  Officials also confirmed that the death toll among Israeli forces was rising: as of 8 a.m. local time, that number was five; and then after 6 p.m. the deaths of another 13 soldiers in the Golani infantry brigade were confirmed.

The spokesman for the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) did not say if the “expansion” of the incursion meant the targets are still only the tunnels that Hamas had dug from Gaza into Israeli territory.

As of Sunday morning, the IDF discovered 34 entrances to tunnels on the Gaza side, five of them leading to the Israeli side of the border.  The other entrances were for connecting tunnels among Hamas command posts, communications centers, and weapons warehouses.

Inspired by the Vietcong — the guerrilla fighters who eventually defeated the Americans in Vietnam — Hamas invested huge amounts of money and manpower in constructing an underground Gaza.

Emblem of Aman (Israeli Military Intelligence)

Emblem of Aman (Israeli Military Intelligence)

Military sources said some of the tunnels were as deep as 100 feet underground and up to one mile in length.  They typically remained totally hidden by not having a completed end point inside Israel.

Meantime, a new spotlight can be shed on how the IDF is using intelligence personnel during the ground incursion. 

In a clear improvement over ground operations in the past, officers from two intel agencies — Shin Bet and Aman — are advancing into Gaza with the combat forces.  

They are able to provide on-the-spot information and guidance, based on years of reconnaissance, surveillance, and communications intercepts.  In addition, when Palestinians are captured, the intel officers can take the lead in interrogating them.

On Saturday, the IDF announced that 13 Hamas fighters have been captured in the ground fighting since Thursday

[On the rising Israeli military death toll, click here to see a comment by Yossi Melman on i24news.tv July 20.]

Shin Bet is the domestic security agency, roughly equivalent to America’s FBI. Shin Bet has — since 1967 when Israel captured Gaza and other territories in the Six-Day War — been tasked with tracking the movements and actions of Palestinian guerrilla groups.

Aman (Agaf ha-Modi’in) is the intelligence corps of the Israeli military, and it runs sigint (signals intelligence) programs that closely monitor the communications of Palestinian groups.  Aman also tries to forecast the intentions of Israel’s enemies.

July 20, 2014

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