In the aftermath of the devastating conflict in northern Gaza, the true extent of the destruction becomes painfully clear. The landscape is now dominated by the skeletal remains of buildings, standing as a haunting reminder of the once vibrant city. Amidst this desolation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continue to exert their stronghold, their vehicles rumbling through the empty streets.
Venturing into this somber scene, CNN accompanied the IDF on a journey to witness the recently exposed tunnel shaft discovered at Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the enclave. Traveling under the cover of darkness, the convoy carefully navigated the Gaza Strip, relying on night vision goggles to guide them along the way. They had six hours to explore Gaza, dedicating a significant portion of that time to the tunnel shaft.
The path through Gaza was marked by the profound scars of war. Buildings stood as mere shells, either completely destroyed or barely recognizable amidst the twisted wreckage. Life seemed to have vanished, as residents fled to the south or perished during the six weeks of conflict.
The journey began at a beach location where the IDF had established a staging area. From there, the reporters joined armored personnel carriers for the final kilometer to reach the hospital. Their only view of the outside world was through night-vision screens, but even in black and white, the level of destruction left them in awe.
Inside Gaza City, the streets were lined with the remnants of high-rise buildings and apartment towers. The absence of Palestinians to speak with, even under the escort of the IDF, became a stark reality. CNN reported from inside Gaza, abiding by the conditions set by the Israeli military, which required footage filmed in Gaza to be submitted for review and prohibited the disclosure of sensitive locations and soldiers’ identities. Despite these conditions, CNN maintained editorial control over the final report.
Stepping out of the armored vehicle, darkness engulfed the CNN team. Guided only by their red lights, they made their way to a nearby building and patiently waited for the Israeli forces to secure the area. The tunnel shaft was nearby, left entirely exposed.
According to Lt. Col. Tom, the commander leading the group, this tunnel was far larger than any he had encountered before. Its significant size marked a departure from the standard tunnels seen during the previous operation in 2014. The team had anticipated encountering a more active battlefield within Gaza City, but instead, an eerie silence enveloped them. The occasional sound of small arms fire offered a distant reminder of the urban warfare, amid a sea of darkness.
As midnight approached, the team neared the exposed tunnel shaft, eager to witness the promised “concrete evidence” that Hamas had utilized the hospital complex as a disguise for their underground activities, including a command and control center.
Prior to their visit, the IDF had released what they claimed to be evidence of weapons and ammunition found within the hospital. However, upon investigation, CNN discovered that some of these items had been relocated, failing to provide the conclusive proof of Hamas’ underground facilities. The discovery of the tunnel shaft the following day added a layer of intrigue, revealing an entrance to an unknown underground structure. The mystery surrounding the purpose and depth of this structure has captured international attention.
Standing at the edge of the tunnel shaft, the team observed its formidable architecture. A ladder hung at the top, hinting at the possibility of further exploration. In the center, a pole stood as if waiting for a spiral staircase to materialize. The shaft descended far beyond their sight, shrouded in the dim glow of their headlamps.
Video footage released by the IDF shed light on the hidden depths of the tunnel. A spiral staircase led down into a concrete passage, revealing a glimpse of what lay beneath the surface. According to the IDF, the tunnel extended approximately 10 meters downwards, with a total length of 55 meters. At the end of this enigmatic structure, a world remained shrouded in secrecy.
Q: Was the exposure of the tunnel shaft the first piece of evidence of Hamas’ underground activities?
A: The discovery of the tunnel shaft offered a significant piece of evidence, but the true extent and purpose of Hamas’ underground infrastructure remain a subject of exploration.
Q: Did the CNN team face any challenges in Gaza City?
A: Yes, the team experienced a profound sense of desolation as they witnessed the aftermath of war and encountered an eerie silence throughout their visit.