Israel-Hamas war, Gaza airstrikes, ICJ genocide case, Blinken visit

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Editor’s Note: CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces’ escort at all times. As a condition for journalists to join the embed with the IDF, media outlets must submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military for security review. CNN did not submit its final report to the IDF and retained editorial control.

On the streets of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, the scars of war are clear to see.

The city’s heavily damaged buildings bear testament to some of the fiercest fighting that has taken place in the nearly 100 days since the devastating Hamas attacks on October 7 that killed more than 1,200 people and sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. In the more than three months since, at least 23,357 people in Gaza have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. CNN cannot independently confirm those numbers due to the difficulty of access to Gaza for international media.

But the carnage above ground tells only half the story of the Israel Defense Forces’ effort to drive out Hamas from a city it has described as a “main stronghold” of the militant group.

It is below ground, in the massive Hamas tunnel networks that the IDF says stretch for miles in all directions that its soldiers face a task with no obvious parallel in modern military history.

Dan Goldfus, IDF Division Commander, told CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson he believes some of the more than 200 people taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 were held in tunnels under the heart of Khan Younis, including some of the 106 who are still believed to be in Gaza.

Some of the tunnels are 60 meters deep (nearly 200 feet), according to Goldfus. Some are wide and some narrow. Penetrating them is a notoriously dangerous task.


Goldfus says the biggest issue facing his troops is the “multi-dimensional” nature of the fighting “on all fronts.”

“We are maneuvering underground to reach each and every terrorist formation, each and every militant,” he said.

He led a CNN team on a tour that illustrated the complexity of the task.

The tour took the team down a metal ladder and two flights of stairs, wiring visible all the way, to about 15 meters (50 feet) under the ground.

The CNN team descended over 20 meters (65 feet), taking steps into a complex network. Yet asked how deep this tunnel went, Goldfus replied, “This is not a very deep tunnel.”

Some, he said, are nearly three times as deep.

Branching off from the side of the tunnel CNN entered, the ceiling was so low it was impossible to stand up straight. And at the end was a small room with a metal frame around the door.

It is in small rooms like this where some of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas have been kept, Goldfus claims.

It is a grim, unforgiving place for anyone, whether hostage or soldier, but Goldfus says the IDF will continue its fight until Hamas is eliminated.

This week, the IDF claimed to have completed the dismantling of Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza and said it was switching its focus to southern and central Gaza.

Goldfus knows his job is far from over.

“If we give in to the Hamas, we give in to this area, you have to understand that, and I think no sovereign state would agree to such a thing,” he says.

He believes the IDF’s objectives are clear:

“The enemy has brought us, drawn us in, by slaughtering our people, and we know why we’re in here and what we’re doing very clearly. And I think that we’re here to do the job till the end.” 


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