At least 15 Hamas tunnels extend into Israel, TV report says
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At least 15 Hamas tunnels extend into Israel, TV report says

Channel 2 item, citing unnamed security cabinet sources, comes two days before publication of ombudsman report on 2014 Gaza War

IDF infantrymen congregating around a tunnel entrance in Gaza, July 24, 2014. (Courtesy IDF Flickr)
IDF infantrymen congregating around a tunnel entrance in Gaza, July 24, 2014. (Courtesy IDF Flickr)

The Gaza-based terror group Hamas has at least 15 attack tunnels that reach into Israeli territory, according to a Channel 2 report aired Sunday, quoting unnamed sources in the high-level security cabinet.

Sunday’s report on the new cross-border tunnels came two days ahead of the scheduled publication of a damning state comptroller report on the 2014 Gaza war.

Leaked copies of the report have been highly critical of the army’s failures to prepare adequately for the threat of Hamas tunnels, and chastise the political leadership for improperly managing the war effort.

Israel’s 50-day campaign against Hamas in Gaza, known in Israel as Operative Protective Edge, began as a predominantly aerial campaign in response to repeated rocket attacks from the Strip, similar to the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. But after Hamas made use of its tunnel network to carry out attacks inside Israel, the focus shifted to tackling the subterranean threat.

Although some 34 tunnels were destroyed during the campaign, Hamas has reportedly invested considerable resources rehabilitating its network of attack tunnels over the past few years. The IDF has also sought to improve its ability to counter the threat since the 2014 conflict.

Ahead of Tuesday’s publication of the state comptroller’s report, IDF officials and senior politicians responsible for leading the campaign have been seeking to portray their involvement in a favorable light to help sway public opinion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), then-defense minister Moshe Ya'alon (C) and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (R), at a press conference in Jerusalem, August 27, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon (C) and then-IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz (R), at a press conference in Jerusalem, August 27, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“In the next week, you’re going to hear a lot about Protective Edge,” former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday night. “They’ll say that we didn’t know, that we didn’t tell them, that we didn’t report to them. And the biggest lie of all? That we weren’t prepared and we lost. That’s nonsense.”

Along with his Facebook post, the former defense minister also released a video that showed the threats made by Hamas leaders, followed by statistics on Israeli accomplishments, for example, the number of rocket launchers destroyed, Hamas fighters killed, and tunnels blown up

Benny Gantz, who was the IDF chief of staff during the war, stood up for Military Intelligence and its chief at the time, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, on Friday, at a conference for veterans of “Havatzalot,” an elite intelligence program.

“During Protective Edge, there was intelligence that was excellent, terrific, accessible, but not always perfect. I am ready to go to the next campaign with the same intelligence that we had in the last one,” Gantz said, according to a report Sunday in the the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Both during the operation and in the nearly two and a half years since it ended, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has painted himself as the sole actor to recognize the threat of Hamas terror tunnels. Leaked transcripts from cabinet meetings during the war showed Bennett calling for the military to be more aggressive in combating the tunnel threat.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 18, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem)
Housing Minister Yoav Galant arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 18, 2016. (Marc Israel
Sellem)

On Sunday morning, Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) responded to the claims made by Gantz and Ya’alon, accusing them of trying to turn failures into victories.

“The preparations for Operation Protective Edge by IDF chief of staff Gantz and defense minister Ya’alon were negligent and a failure. It is grave that they were trying to present it as a victory and an accomplishment,” he said at a conference held by the financial Globes newspaper.

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