This operation was supposed to be the jewel in Israel’s crown, the result of impressive, painstaking intelligence collection mapping out the vast network of Hamas tunnels in the northern section of the Gaza Strip, including the fortified, fully equipped bomb shelter for the organization’s leadership. The Islamist group had little idea that everything it was digging underground over the years was being documented by Israeli intelligence in order to compile a bank of bombing targets for future use. Israel had also devised a series of sophisticated ruses designed to force Hamas commanders to flee underground into what the military was dubbing the “metro,” where they would be buried by heavy bombs bringing the tunnels crashing down on their heads.
On May 13-14, one of Israel’s top brass made what would turn out to be a hasty decision. The military launched its deception maneuver, which included spreading rumors of an imminent Israeli ground offensive in northern Gaza. The rumors were bolstered by the spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who issued an official announcement in the pre-dawn hours of May 14 broadly hinting at such an operation. The idea was to lure all the Hamas leaders into the tunnels where they would prepare to take on the invading enemy forces, allowing Israel to bomb them all.