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February 1, 2016 9:37 am

Israeli Defense Ministry Says It Cannot Commit to Timetable for System to Combat Tunnels, as Hamas Enhances Threats to ‘Surprise the Enemy’ in Future Confrontations

avatar by Ruthie Blum

A Hamas fighter inside a terror tunnel from Gaza into Israel. Photo: Twitter.

A Hamas fighter inside a terror tunnel from Gaza into Israel. Photo: Twitter.

Israel’s Defense Ministry refused on Sunday to commit to a timetable for implementing a project to prevent infiltration by Hamas terrorists into Israel through tunnels from Gaza, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.

A Defense Ministry representative said as much during a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee, which was held at Moshav Nativ Haasara near the Gaza border, in the wake of recent reports that Hamas is continuing to enhance its terror-tunnel capabilities, and in view of complaints on the part of residents in the area that they have been hearing digging and hammering under their houses.

Committee Chairperson MK Karin Elharar convened the meeting to follow up on progress made in the effort to make the border impenetrable by Hamas terrorists.

Elharar expressed frustration on behalf of Israelis living with noises from jack hammers right under their homes. “Their fears will only be assuaged when they know for certain that something is being done to stop and prevent it, and I understand them,” Elharar said, according to nrg.

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An IDF representative at the meeting claimed that the army has been taking such complaints seriously. “We’re not saying that the residents are imagining things,” he said. “There must be something to [what they are hearing]. But we have investigated and ruled out each complaint.”

Elharar demanded that the Defense Ministry representative at least give an estimated time frame for the completion of the project. “I want to know if we are talking about the coming year, another two years or a decade,” she said.

His response was to say that the technology being developed for the program is “unprecedented,” and therefore he is unable to commit to a schedule. Likening this to the early stages of the Iron Dome missile defense system – when it was not clear how long it would take to turn the dream into a reality – he said that in this case, too, “You can’t give birth to a baby prematurely.”

The committee meeting came on the heels of a newly released Hamas video in which the terrorist organization is threatening a renewal of tunnel-digging for the purpose of committing attacks inside Israel, according to Hebrew news site Walla.

The clip is part of a larger Hamas campaign called “People of the Tunnels,” which began a few days ago to persuade the residents of Gaza of the necessity of the tunnels in the war against Israel, to justify the resources and effort invested in the endeavor. The campaign includes photos of Hamas fighters in full military garb inside the tunnels, with one showing a caricature of children playing in the grass above, with the caption: “On behalf of your lives, we have taken the path of death.”

The video, translated into Hebrew from Arabic by Walla, provides the historical summary of the use of tunnels against Israel. It opens with a 2004 scene of Hamas fighters ostensibly declaring, “This is a message (to the infidels), from under their fortresses.”

The narrator adds that “The tunnels were used as strategic weapon in the war against the enemy, and provided supplies to our people during the criminal siege.” He also refers to the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006 and to the use of the tunnels during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

At the end of the clip, the narrator thanks the “anonymous combatants who have been working day and night in the bowels of the earth” digging the tunnels, which he guarantees “will remain a riddle that the enemy will not be able to solve and will surprise the enemy in every future confrontation.”

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