Hamas released an intense video yesterday, Thursday, showing a real-time example of one of the biggest concerns that Israeli military planners undoubtedly had for their invasion of Gaza.

The 84-second video is recorded from a helmet-mounted camera. It shows a Hamas fighter hiding in the shelter of bushes after emerging from a tunnel or hiding as an Israeli Merkava main battle tank rolls along a dusty road east of the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City.

The fighter makes a mad nine-second dash toward the tank and places an improvised explosive device (IED) made from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) on the tank’s hull next to the rear of its turret. He then runs back to the tunnel entrance, firing what Hamas said was an Al-Yassin-105 RPG at the Israeli tank.

 

He does all this while another Merkava tank points in his direction.

Video of A Hamas fighter places a bomb on an Israeli Merkava tank.As the Hamas fighter runs toward an Israeli Merkava tank, the cannon of another is pointed in his direction.

After the RPG fires, a bright flash of fire occurs over the tank. It is unclear whether the improvised explosive device placed in the tank or the projectile caused the explosion.

Video of A Hamas fighter places a bomb on an Israeli Merkava tank.
A fireball is seen on the tank, although it is unclear whether it was the result of a projectile or the explosive device placed in the hull.

The video continues as the Hamas fighter appears to go back into the tunnel or hide around the 1:10 mark. The video ends with one of the Hamas fighters picking up a piece of metal that presumably indicates it is part of a tank.

Video of A Hamas fighter places a bomb on an Israeli Merkava tank.A Hamas fighter picks up a piece of metal, probably after the attack on the tank.

Hamas later claimed on Telegram that the tank had been destroyed. However, it is unclear to what extent, if any, the Merkava armored vehicle was damaged following this engagement. There are no images of a damaged or destroyed tank. The explosion could also have been due to the activation of the Merkava’s Trophy active protection system, which sent the RPG projectile flying into the air before impact. It is unclear what happened to the improvised explosive device.

In any case, the video shows the vulnerability of armored vehicles when they do not operate jointly with infantry forces in what is known as a combined arms maneuver. The Hamas fighter was able to run up to the unimpeded tank, return to the tunnel entrance and fire an RPG. Although other tanks are seen in the video, no Israeli infantry is visible, although it is possible that there are some outside the narrow viewing range of such a camera.

It also shows the innumerable problems that the tunnels pose for Israel to enter Gaza.

“There is likely what amounts to an entire city of tunnels and bunkers beneath the surface of Gaza,” wrote [Modern War Institute (MWI) chair of urban warfare studies John] Spencer [in an article on the topic. ]. “As it did in 2014, Hamas can be expected to use the tunnels offensively to maneuver attackers underground, keeping them hidden and protected, to carry out surprise attacks. The group will also use them defensively to move between fighting positions and avoid the firepower of the IDF and ground forces.

This is only made worse when you consider the complex and dense urban environment that makes up a lot of Gaza, where threats can arise in tight areas where armor has limited space to maneuver or even detect the threat before it becomes too much. beats

Over the years, Hamas has offered journalists guided tours of its extensive tunnel networks beneath Gaza.

Israel has so far lost 18 soldiers in its invasion of Gaza, and Hamas has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Israeli armor. Eleven Israeli soldiers from the Tzabar Battalion of the Givati ​​Infantry Brigade were killed and four others wounded on Tuesday when a Hamas anti-tank guided missile hit a Namer armored personnel carrier. The Namer is a turretless derivative of the Merkava.

With an extremely volatile battlefield and a highly controlled reporting environment, we do not know the exact circumstances surrounding the Namer attack, including whether it involved Hamas fighters emerging from a tunnel. In any case, that incident illustrates one of the many dangers that Israeli armor faces against a well-armed and entrenched enemy.

Given the likelihood of a long and bloody campaign in Gaza, Israel will lose more troops and equipment to Hamas fighters, many of whom are likely to emerge from tunnels. Destroying these tunnels is one of the great objectives of the invasion.

Howard Altman