Israel announced the withdrawal of ground forces from Gaza on Tuesday for a temporary cease-fire, saying its troops had destroyed the network of tunnels used by Palestinian militants along the Israeli border.
"Mission accomplished," Israel Defense Forces said on its Twitter feed on Tuesday. "We have dismantled the underground terror network built by Hamas to infiltrate and attack Israel."
The 32 "terror tunnels" laid by Hamas had stoked fear among Israelis during the four-week conflict.
The Washington Post noted that Internet videos posted by the IDF showed "masked militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades crawling out of holes in the ground." One purportedly showed a mosque in the Gaza Strip "where two tunnel shafts, digging tools and several weapons were allegedly being protected by Hamas militants." Those, combined with social media-fueled claims that Israeli children could hear shoveling beneath their beds, spread that fear, the Post said.
Hamas used tunnels to carry out at least three attacks against Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli military officials.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not pull ground forces out of Gaza until all tunnels into Israel were destroyed "with or without a cease-fire."
So what do the tunnels look like? Last month, Israeli soldiers gave members of the media a guided tour of one of them. Inside, rock and concrete walls were lined with a series of cables connecting Gaza to southern Israel.
The web of tunnels constructed by Hamas has been dubbed “lower Gaza," forming a network akin to London's Underground or the New York City subway system.
But not all the tunnels are used for terror.
"To many Palestinians in Gaza," Anna Therese Day wrote on Mashable.com, "the primary objective of the tunnels, some of which are miles long, is less about military assaults and more about a connection to the outside world — a conduit through which groceries and other goods can enter the besieged Gaza Strip."
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