Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former IDF chief of Staff Benny Gantz are expected to face harsh criticism in an upcoming State Comptroller report over the Israeli leadership’s performance during the war in Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Netanyahu and Ya’alon are accused of not updating the security cabinet in real time of the imminent threat of war with the Hamas in the Gaza Strip and not discussing the grave threat of the terror group’s attack tunnels, according to Hebrew media sources who read the draft report.
The prime minister and the defense minister concealed from the cabinet the fact that the Shin Bet security agency had warned of a potential war with Hamas in early July 2014, Channel 10 reported. The war, which Israel dubbed Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8, 2014.
Members of the security cabinet were only apprised of the Shin Bet warning during the operation, the report said.
In the draft report, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira also slams Gantz for the IDF’s lack of operational readiness and planning vis-a-vis the threats posed by tunnels in the Strip.
Hamas’s tunnels were used to devastating effect during the war on a number of occasions to ambush IDF soldiers.
In February, the comptroller’s office released a statement pointing to severe failures to anticipate the tunnel threat.
“The draft as submitted points to gaps and failures, some severe, in the readiness for the tunnel threat and dealing with them,” the comptroller’s office said.
Shapira’s report is expected to be even harsher than the infamous Winograd Commission, which took the Olmert government to task for its conduct during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, and which led to the resignation of the then IDF chief Dan Halutz, Channel 2 reported.
Netanyahu and Ya’alon hit back at Shapira on Thursday evening, dismissing the report as “not serious.”
Sources close to the two men said they rejected the claims against them in the draft.
“The operation was conducted with unprecedented transparency vis-a-vis the security cabinet. Over the course of the operation, Netanyahu convened the cabinet dozens of times, more than during any other [military] operation in history,” a source close to Netanyahu said Thursday.
The Israeli military destroyed over 30 Hamas tunnels during the 2014 operation, and recently uncovered two sophisticated tunnels that lead into Israeli territory, including one on Thursday.
Following the 50-day conflict, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) in developing a detection system to locate such tunnels.
The draft report came amid fears of another conflict in the south after several days of exchanges near the border.
A Palestinian woman was killed Thursday when Israeli tank shells hit her home east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, the southern city’s Nasser hospital said.
The Israeli fire came in response to a spate of mortar attacks on troops along the Gaza border fence since Tuesday.
Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of the security cabinet for Thursday night to discuss the escalation in violence along Israel’s southern border, while Ya’alon warned Hamas that Israel would not tolerate any attempts to disrupt the lives of its citizens.
“Terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip need to know that if they try to disrupt our lives, they will delivered a severe blow,” he said at a service to mark the end of Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We will not tolerate a return to a routine of shooting and attempts to harm our civilians and soldiers. We will take firm action with an iron fist, as we have in the past few days.”