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Mind-boggling': Retired general on Hamas tunnel in Gaza

2023-12-20 (227)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it has uncovered "the biggest Hamas tunnel" in Gaza, spanning a length of 2.5 miles. CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling (Ret.) discusses. #CNN

Video Transcription:

I guess, first of

all, I mean,

the images of this tunnel are just

kind of mind boggling here.

What is your take on all this?

What was your reaction to that?

When you saw that?

Yeah, my my reaction is

this is what Israel

has been talking about

since the beginning of this conflict.

They knew that

these kind of tunnels existed.

I mean, we've been showing on

CNN the single file tunnels

that you almost have to squeeze through,

but you can't conduct an operation

of literally thousands of terrorist

when you're squeezing them all through.

So you're talking about a tunnel

in this case

that's 50 meters, about 200 feet

or so underground

that has the capability to hold weapons,

have large meeting spaces,

travel around and even bring vehicles in.

It's just

part of the network

that subterranean under the Gaza

Hamas has been

building for the last several

years, in fact, close to a decade.

And how they have been shifting

the money away

from the Palestinian citizens

to build these kind of things

to to

to construct their military apparatus.

And it's just it's just mind boggling.

It is.

But it also shows the difficulty

of fighting in this kind

of subterranean environment.


I mean, our Jeremy Diamond was saying

just a short while ago that,

I mean, this

this tunnel is almost big enough

or maybe big enough for vehicles

to move through.

I mean, that

that that is a different kind of tunnel.

There's no question about it.

And General, today

the IDF announced it's

taking control of parts of Khan

Younis in southern Gaza.

The Hamas

run health

ministry also reported

an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza.

What's your sense of things right now?

I mean,

President Biden has been concerned

about what

he's described

as indiscriminate bombing in Gaza,

but what's your sense of where things

stand right now tonight?

I don't I'm not in concurrence, Jim,

with the the the indiscriminate bombing.

It may be somewhat excessive

and we could talk about that.

But, you know,

from the very beginning of this conflict,

starting a weeks ago,

you and I were talking about

how they would start in northern Gaza,

in Gaza City,

and then go to potentially Chan Yunis,

then to Darbala,

where and then even down south

into Rafah.

The Israeli government has said

this operation

will take many more months,

whereas many of the United States

administration is saying

they'd like to see

it ended in terms

of the kinetic operation

by the end of December.

I've said from the beginning,

I don't think that's going to happen,

given the size

and strength of the Hamas

terrorist groups

that are in these subterranean tunnels.

And we're seeing in each section of Gaza

that there are more

and more underground headquarters.

And Hamas has been very diligent in terms

of setting traps for the Israeli forces

as they go through.

So anyone that says,

hey, we ought to shift from

using airpower

to ground

and special operations forces,

that's easy to say on the outside.

But truthfully,

with some of the constructs

that we've seen, Hamas using

these underground networks

and some of the

uses of civilian buildings

have to be struck.

I think it will continue on.

Secretary Austin is going to discuss that

with the Israeli government

over the next couple of days.

But I think we're going to see

a continuation

of these kind of strikes

until Israel determines

that Hamas is defeated.

And I did want to ask you

about the three

Israeli hostages who were

mistakenly killed by the IDF.

We've talked

to a variety of people this week.

And so I certainly want to get your

your take on all of this.

When I spoke with the IDF spokesman,

Jonathan Conricus, yesterday,

I mean, he really didn't

indicate that there's

going to be a major shift

in their tactics or rules of engagement.

They're going to remind their soldiers

that they may come across hostages

from time to time

who have escaped captivity

and they need to be able

to recognize that.

But, I mean, the three men came out

of a building shirtless,

waving a white flag.

They were shot anyway.

The IDF says those troops

were not following

the proper rules of engagement.

But Colonel Conricus was saying, look,

you know,

we have Hamas

fighters who are

pretending to be civilians,

who are doing things

to draw in IDF forces to

entrap them and kill them.

It is such a

messy, chaotic

battlefield I'm wondering, General,

what's your advice on all this?


I don't have any advice, Jim,

but truthfully,

what I would say is Hamas

and any terrorist

organization is going to use deception

and trickery.

And you add to that

the fact of the conditions

of the battlefield, as you just said.

And I would bet that the hostages,

as they came

out of the building,

probably did not look like the Clean-Cut

young men

we see in their photos

that have been appearing on air.

They've been in captivity for two months.

The soldiers,

the Israeli soldiers

who were

always anxious

in any kind of firefight

with adrenaline surgeon,

and especially depending

on what their level of training

experience is.

You know, truthfully, Jim, I had

a fratricide incident in a command

I was in in Iraq.

And it devastates the individuals

who shoot their fellow citizens.

And in this case, I'm

sure it's not only devastated

whoever engaged those three hostages but

I would believe that

this is rippled

through the Israeli Defense Forces.

And they are attempting

to conduct their operations

according to rules of engagement.

But truthfully, as you just said,

the conditions on this

battlefield are extremely complex

and complicated.

You don't know who the enemy is

When people hop out of buildings,

especially buildings,

as the Israelis have been showing,


a vast amount of ammunition

and they contain ambush sites.

It's very difficult to differentiate.

But I believe that the

Israeli Defense Forces

will review their rules of engagement.

And I know their chief of staff

has addressed this issue

with all of their soldiers

in the fight right now.

But it's tough.

It's really heartbreaking. Yeah,

very heartbreaking.

General Hertling,

great to have you on as always.

Thanks so much.

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