In an otherwise excellent article on the Hamas terror tunnel network in Gaza, the Jerusalem Post buries the lede. An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier in the field told the Post that while Hamas fighters offered fierce resistance when the ground operation began, now Hamas operatives are fleeing, abandoning their positions, leaving behind weapons and other material that the IDF is using to expand its assault on the terror group.
The source added that in recent days, a recognizable wave of demoralization has washed over Hamas’s combat battalions. “They simply escape, leaving behind weapons and suicide bomb vests that were laid out for battle. This morning we stormed a position, and they just weren’t there. I don’t see a determined enemy. We have encountered stronger pockets of fighting in the past. But now, I would not give them a high grade for fighting spirit.”
Using further eyewitness reports, the article describes how Hamas has integrated the tunnel network into the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, constructing entrances in homes and even mosques. “I have not entered one civilian home that did not have weapons, suicide belts, or booby traps in it,” the source told the Post, stressing the lengths to which the IDF goes to protect innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, regardless.
The reports of a collapse in Hamas fighters’ morale lends credence to other reports that Hamas leaders were considering a temporary truce suggested by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The organization has insisted in the past on making a ceasefire conditional on the removal of the international blockade of Gaza, which exists to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and materials to build its terror network even further than it has.
Update: As Israel’s political leaders debated a ceasefire well into Friday evening, a top military leader took the unusual step of discouraging a ceasefire, the Times of Israel reports, confirming the Jerusalem Post‘s report about Hamas retreat:
“The spirit of Hamas terrorists is weakening,” Southern Region Commander Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman says. “I see terrorists in distress, abandoned by their commanders who deserted them at the front and stayed behind…and facing them, our reserve and standing army units led by commanders leading the force.”