Israeli forces operating in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis discovered a massive underground tunnel where the military said on Sunday morning that around 20 hostages were held at different times.
Soldiers from the IDF’s 98th Division encountered a booby-trapped entrance to the tunnel, which was located in the “heart of a civilian area” of Khan Yunis, in the residence of a Hamas terrorist. Soldiers made their way through “many obstacles” inside the tunnel, including explosives, sliding doors and blast doors. Several terrorists confronted the troops and were killed.
The tunnel, which was destroyed after examination, cost millions of shekels to construct, according to the IDF. Larger than seven football fields (830 meters, 908 yards) and at a depth of 20 meters (22 yards), it was a branch of an underground tunnel network built beneath the city.
According to the IDF, around 20 hostages were held at various times in the tunnel, some of whom have been released. They were held in a central chamber that included five barred prison cells.
According to Israel, there are 136 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza out of 240 taken there on Oct. 7, although many are believed to be dead.
Other evidence was found indicating that the hostages were held there, along with intelligence and weapons belonging to Hamas.
IDF units continue to operate in Khan Yunis, killing several terrorists over the past 24 hours and locating “large quantities” of weapons.
Fifteen terrorists killed in northern Gaza
Israeli soldiers killed 15 terrorists in the Daraj and Tuffah districts of Gaza City in the northern Strip. Furthermore, troops located uniforms and “numerous” weapons in a targeted raid on a Hamas structure.
IDF soldier slain
The IDF death toll since the start of the Gaza ground invasion on Oct. 27 rose to 195 with the announcement on Sunday that Sgt. First Class (res.) Uriel Aviad Silberman, 23, from Moshav Nehalim, was killed in action in southern Gaza.
A total of 531 military personnel have been killed on all fronts since the start of the war on Oct. 7.
U.S. estimates IDF has killed 20% to 30% of Hamas forces
Israeli forces have killed 20% to 30% of Hamas fighters since the start of the war, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing estimates from U.S. intelligence agencies.
These numbers align with Israeli estimates published last week that 9,000 terrorists had been killed in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 killed inside Israel on and after Oct. 7.
Estimates before the war put the number of terrorist fighters in Gaza at some 30,000.
According to the U.S. estimates, Hamas “still has enough munitions to continue striking Israel and Israeli forces in Gaza for months.”
Additionally, U.S. officials said that Hamas is attempting to reconstitute its police force in parts of Gaza City.
Current and former Israeli military officials told the Journal that the aim of Hamas was simply to survive the war.
“You don’t have to win, you just have to not lose,” a senior military official said.