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Army chief: Uncovered Gaza attack tunnel was ‘major asset’ to the enemy

Kohavi visits military-run COVID-19 wards in Haifa hospital, says IDF contact tracing unit fully operational but requires cooperation of the public

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

This photo provided by the Israel Defense Forces on October 20, 2020, shows military engineering equipment along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel entering Israeli territory was found in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)
This photo provided by the Israel Defense Forces on October 20, 2020, shows military engineering equipment along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel entering Israeli territory was found in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

Military chief Aviv Kohavi described the cross-border attack tunnel uncovered by the Israel Defense Forces this week on the Gaza border as a “highly significant asset” to terror groups in the Strip on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to get into the technical details about the tunnel, but I can say that it was a highly significant asset for the enemy, and we will continue to take care of it and the subterranean threat with every method and every advanced means — from technology to intelligence,” Kohavi said.

Without providing additional details, he repeated that the tunnel was a “very, very significant terror tunnel.”

The military has yet to say which terror group it believes dug the tunnel, which was found dozens of meters inside Israeli territory, but on the Gaza side of the Israel-built underground border barrier.

The IDF chief made his remarks in military-run coronavirus treatment wards established earlier this month in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. During the visit, Kohavi met with a number of patients in the wards, where 100 IDF doctors, nurses and medics work.

Kohavi said the discovery of the passage by the sensor-studded subterranean concrete barrier demonstrated that the threat posed by tunnels “had not disappeared.”

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, center-right, speaks with a coronavirus patient who is being treated on a military-run ward in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center on October 21, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The general also appeared to allude to an overnight strike on an alleged Iran-linked site in southern Syria, which was attributed to Israel.

“The past 24 hours have been 24 hours of operational activity on every front, which remind all of us that we have many challenges besides the coronavirus, and we are highly determined to handle them,” he said.

In addition, Kohavi announced that the military’s coronavirus task force, Alon, had become fully operational, saying its contact tracing unit was now able to reach every confirmed carrier of the disease. Until recently, the unit had been overwhelmed by the number of people diagnosed with the novel coronavirus each day and was unable to perform epidemiological surveys for all of them. This prevented them from being able to track down all the people that may have been in contact with a confirmed carrier and order them to self-isolate.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with a coronavirus patient who is being treated on a military-run ward in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center on October 21, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The IDF is geared up for war against both enemies and the coronavirus,” he said.

Kohavi called for cooperation with the contact tracers in order to ensure that they are able to find people who may have contracted the disease and prevent further outbreaks.

“This task force will not be effective if there is not cooperation with the public. I am here asking: Work with the task force, give full reports. We can beat this, but that requires cooperation,” Kohavi said.

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