The general who commanded the Israeli military along the Gaza border in the early 2000s criticized the IDF’s current method of dealing with the Palestinian enclave, accusing the army of taking too passive an approach.
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yom-Tov Samia, who led the Israel Defense Force’s Southern Command before becoming a counter-terrorism researcher at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, told Army Radio that “Israel’s security strategy over the past 25 years has shifted from initiated action against terror groups to passive defense.”
Southern residents and officials have voiced fears in recent days that Gaza terror group Hamas has ramped up its tunnel building efforts, with subterranean passages reaching into Israeli territory.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to hit Gaza harder than during the 2014 war if it is attacked from tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
According to Samia, Israel should have maintained a military presence in the Philadelphi Corridor, a narrow strip of land between Gaza and Egypt, to prevent contraband from crossing into the Palestinian enclave.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if the IDF would have remained in the Philadelphi Corridor (after it left Gaza in 2005), the Palestinians would have been saved a whole lot of trouble,” said Samia, referring to the many casualties caused by the recurring bouts of violence between Israel and Gaza over the last eight years.
“Are we going to wait for a missile to fall on a kindergarten before taking action?” he asked.
Samia’s criticism joined that of a chorus of Israeli politicians who have taken the government to task in recent days for failing to deal with the apparent tunnel threat. On Sunday, Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said the government was guilty of “zero activity” in the wake of reports that Hamas is working around the clock to build tunnels from which to attack Israelis within the country’s borders, according to the Walla news site.
This is not the first time Samia has criticized Israel’s policy concerning Gaza tunnels. In an interview to Channel 2 in August 2014, Samia said Israel should have dealt with the tunnels in Gaza before operation Protective Edge, the previous major clash between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
In the same Channel 2 interview, Samia also cautioned against any deal with Hamas that would enable the organization to dig new tunnels into Israel. “If any such tunnels are found,” he said, “the political leadership must allow the IDF to take care of them.”