Hamas tactics exact high toll in Israeli ground thrust

Hamas tactics exact high toll in Israeli ground thrust
# 23 July 2014 22:54 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Using tunnels, mines, booby traps and snipers, Hamas fighters have inflicted record casualties on Israeli troops waging an offensive in the Gaza Strip, applying years of training in urban warfare with a new tactical acumen and suicidal resolve, APA reports quoting Reuters.

The Israelis say weapons and know-how supplied by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah make Hamas a more formidable foe.

Four days after Israel launched a withering ground assault on the Palestinian Islamist militants in their stronghold of Shejaia following intensive air strikes, the army still does not have complete control of the area.

Smoke from shelled homes and the buzz of Israeli drones clog the sky above the wrecked district on Gaza's eastern border.

The thud of a buried explosive aimed at a troop carrier is met with an hour-long rain of Israeli artillery fire that shakes the width of the coastal strip, sending the deafening sound bouncing off buildings as far as the shore.

Exploiting a vast network of secret tunnels to snipe at enemy troops and blast their vehicles even inside Israel, Hamas has killed 32 Israeli soldiers -- almost three times as many as in the last major ground clashes in a 2008-9 conflict.

"The al-Qassam brigades continue to give repeated surprises, and every day the holy warriors arise from where the (Israeli) occupation could not foresee," the group said last week.

"They fight... face to face with the enemy in retaliation for the blood of the martyrs that the occupier spills daily."

The action has lived up to the fierce rhetoric.

Hamas has far outstripped fellow militants in Islamic Jihad and other groups in sending drones, scuba commandos and tunnel raiders to take the fight into Israel.

In one such infiltration, Hamas fighters emerged wearing full Israeli uniform, but were let down by one key detail - they were carrying Kalashnikov rifles, not standard issue M16s or Tavor assault rifles.

In the most deadly incident for Israel yet, on the first day of its incursion to begin destroying the tunnels on Sunday, Hamas says its fighters watched as an enemy armored personnel carrier lurched into a web of booby traps they had laid.

"Our holy warriors detonated the minefield with such force that (the carrier) was destroyed. They advanced on it, opened its doors and finished off all left inside," the group said.

Israel offered a different account, saying the vehicle was part of a convoy and was hit my multiple anti-tank missiles.

Israel said six soldiers were killed, while another thought to have been in the vehicle is missing, believed dead. Hamas said it captured him but has not released his picture.

The Israeli military acknowledges Hamas' increased skill.

"They have undergone extensive training, they are well supplied, well motivated and disciplined. We have met a more formidable enemy on the battlefield," said Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner. Israel says it has so far killed more than 200 Palestinian fighters.

"We are not surprised about it because we knew that they were preparing for this battle. They didn't just invest in the tunnels for the last two or three years," he added.