While the IDF had invasion plans mapped out for days, it was Hamas itself that caused the ground attack to be launched on Thursday evening. The timing of the invasion was a direct result of the early Thursday morning​ attempt by thirteen terrorists to launch a mass casualty attack on a nearby kibbutz by sneaking into the country through a tunnel constructed by Hamas. The terrorists were carrying heavy weapons 15 anti-tank weapons, Kalashnikovs automatic weapons all with an enormous amount of ammunition.

As planned now, the invasion is meant to destroy the virtual subterranean city Hamas has created.

During a Thursday conference call, Israeli reserve Col. Miri Eisen, former deputy head of IDF’s combat intelligence corps, explained:

All of the city of Gaza, throughout the different urban areas, which is so much a part of the Gaza Strip when you look at it from outside, these low-ranking urban areas, one, two, three-story houses all have a subterranean aspect. You’ve seen some of the tunnels that they have tunneled for a mile or two from the Gaza Strip into Israel because those we’ve exposed, but we have full intelligence information about the subterranean ones that they’ve built underneath the city. That’s where Ismail Haniyeh did his tape, tape that he showed a couple of days ago. It’s where they do their press conferences. Everything is underground. Now, that dilemma in that sense is to attack that, and there are different physical capabilities that could do so. But the damage, but what happens to everything around it, would be enormous and Israel will not do that.

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It is important to remember this when the media talks about the fact that the Israeli population has bomb shelters while Gaza citizens do not. The lack of Gaza shelters is a direct result of Hamas’ disregard for their residents. They use all their concrete to build tunnels to make war and have nothing left to protect non-combatants.

Although the call was five hours before the ground operation began, Col. Eisen said the attempted attack all but guaranteed a ground invasion would happen soon:

I think though that the debate in Israel–it’s 5:15 in the afternoon today – has actually changed… they’re talking much more about the fact that what may be happening today, tomorrow, tonight, tomorrow, will be a limited incursion to take care of these tunnels, that mile- to two-mile depth to see that they won’t be able to continue entering into Israel and I fully recommend looking at those photos that were released by the IDF spokesperson, because you can see so clearly how they infiltrate with units, with an enormous amount of weapons, that are coming on and in to do a combined attack-kidnapping scenario.

Maj. Gen. (Res) Israel Ziv, the former Head of IDF Operations Directorate and former commander of Gaza Division, said during a second conference call that without being in the ground it is almost impossible to accurately detect the exact location of the tunnels.

The problem with the tunnels is of course that their detection is, is not accurate because you don’t have the visual aspect of the tunnel itself, you don’t have exactly the depth, and of course there are many other practical questions, is it protected, etc. etc. Usually what the IDF is doing is following and gutting the formation and waiting for the right moment either to ambush that, or to as we saw in Kerem Shalom a few weeks ago to bomb it in the last moment, this is the method that was chosen this time too.

General Ziv said the timing of Thursday’s Hamas attack was also an issue. ​The terrorists were caught sneaking into Gaza just before the five-hour humanitarian cease-fire was to begin, indicating that they planned the massacre soon after the cease-fire was to end. According to Ziv, the timing was a surprise to the IDF and one of the straws that broke the camel’s back:

I would mention that for the IDF, it really came as a surprise. We had initial information and the IDF was deployed and prepared on that possibility of course, we never know until the last moment where pinpoint place it is, or the timing, or how big the group that will try to penetrate is, but overall, the act was finding the IDF forces well-prepared…I would just say I want to mention that just in the last two days, the Hamas were applying through the Palestinian Authority for humanitarian corridor and ceasefire. And the timing that they have chosen to do this terror act is not random because they were well-prepared [inaudible] specific timing. I believe one cannot ignore the similarity or the understanding how cynical can Hamas be, by on one hand asking to, Israel to stop fire and to support the humanitarian support to the Gaza citizens, and to at the same time send these killing machines, one of their strategic surprises that they have promised so many times.