State Comptroller Criticizes Israel’s Handling of Hamas Tunnels Prior to Gaza War
There were serious gaps and shortcomings in Israel’s response to the threat posed by the tunnel network overseen by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli State Comptroller’s office said in a document handed over to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot on Friday.
This oversight occurred in the several months prior to Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, during which the IDF destroyed dozens of tunnels in Gaza, the document claimed, according to Israeli news outlet nrg.
The document referred to security deficiencies both on a national level and where preparedness of local communities was concerned, according to nrg.
The comptroller’s office released the document ahead of a comprehensive report on Operation Protective Edge, because of the “apparent urgency of the tunnel issue on all fronts.”
The document also came amid Palestinian and Israeli reports of as many as three tunnels collapsing in the Gaza Strip in recent days. Although Hamas has kept a tight lid on details surrounding the collapses, the Gaza-ruling group admitted that seven people died in one such collapse last week near the border with Israel.
A senior Hamas official also warned last week that the group was rebuilding its tunnel network after last summer’s war, claiming some reach into Israeli territory.
Some IDF officials, meanwhile, played down the threat posed by these tunnels. Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, former commander of the IDF Southern Command before and throughout Operation Protective Edge, said the threat posed by Hamas’ tunnels did not require immediate attention.
“There’s no reason to panic. Hamas is deterred and still licking its wounds” from the war, he told an audience at a conference on terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, according to Israel’s Army Radio.
The Financial Times reported last week that Israel — with US financial assistance — was developing a detection system for enemy tunnels, calling it an “underground Iron Dome.” Israeli military officials said Hamas was already hesitant to burrow into Israeli territory because of IDF detection systems.
One of the original concerns was that Hamas would use these tunnels in a future conflict to send fighters into Israel, perhaps to take over an Israeli border community or launch a terrorist attack. Some locals in southern Israeli communities have reported hearing underground digging and feeling their homes shaking.