The only thing worse than having to assault an entrenched enemy force is to assault one hiding out in tunnels.
During the First World War, the Allied and Axis armies dug trenches and spent years vainly trying to overrun each other. They were still in their respective trenches when a truce was finally declared.
The Japanese Imperial Army dug tunnels in small Pacific islands to resist Allied forces. The portable flamethrower had to be invented to deal with that problem. Nevertheless, a number of Japanese stragglers continued their resistance years after the war ended.
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong dug tunnels to protect their troops from intensive American bombardment. The US took intolerable casualties trying to root Vietnamese guerrillas out of their hiding places. The Americans lost that war.
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has moved its troops about three kilometers into Gaza. An incursion is inevitable. It is the only way to fully dismantle Hamas. But they are moving with extreme caution, avoiding mistakes in the past that resulted in ugly casualties.
Over the past decade or so, Hamas militants have built a network of tunnels stretching hundreds of kilometers underneath the congested Gaza Strip. Those tunnels are now referred to as the “Gaza Metro.” This is where the militants hide their fighting units, their rockets and now their hostages.
If the IDF rolls its armored forces willy-nilly into Gaza’s crowded streets, they will be ambushed by determined militants moving through the tunnels. Some of the tunnels are dug so deeply, they are immune to bunker-busting bombs. The militants underground (literally) can inflict heavy casualties on the IDF.
The IDF closely studied the tactics used by US forces in nearby Iraq. Those tactics basically involve taking small pieces of territory and patiently clearing them out before moving to the next village. It is a long and painstaking way to fight a war, notwithstanding the overwhelming superiority in arms and armor enjoyed by US forces.
The same painstaking methods will have to be used in Gaza. Hamas calculated that an enraged Israel would roll its armor into Gaza in a full-scale assault. There the Israelis would