Comptroller looks into intel failure on Gaza tunnels
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Comptroller looks into intel failure on Gaza tunnels

Yosef Shapira interviews ministers for report investigating how Hamas managed to surprise Israel during summer war

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a Hamas 'attack tunnel' on July 23, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)
Soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a Hamas 'attack tunnel' on July 23, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

The State Comptroller is investigating the possible intelligence failure surrounding attack tunnels used by Hamas during the fighting with Israel over the summer.

Channel 2 reported that Yosef Shapira is in the process of interviewing ministers, and will publish a report detailing why Israel wasn’t better prepared to deal with the threat.

The report will be published after the March 17 elections.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have traded accusations over the handling of the tunnel threat.

In September, Ya’alon lashed out at ministers for second-guessing the government’s management of the conflict this summer with Hamas, detailing that he had disciplined a former officer who leaked information to Bennett about the network of cross-border tunnels that allowed Hamas gunmen to infiltrate Israel.

Israel initially balked at waging a ground war in Gaza, only sending in troops after some lawmakers insisted that infantry troops were needed to destroy the tunnel network.

Bennett, a member of the inner security cabinet who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, was an outspoken critic of how Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted the Gaza war.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Speaking to Channel 2 news, Bennett criticized the fact that the operation against Hamas — prior to the order for ground troops to enter Gaza — was seemingly based on the assumption that “Hamas does not want to use the tunnels; Hamas does not intend to use the tunnels.”

Bennett’s statements in cabinet meetings about the IDF’s findings in Gaza reportedly raised suspicions that led Ya’alon to order Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz to investigate whether Bennett was receiving information from IDF sources that did not come through regular Defense Ministry channels.

Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, seen in the Israeli parliament on June 09, 2014. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, seen in the Israeli parliament on June 09, 2014. (photo credit: FLASH90)

Defense officials accused Bennett of opening “a private, unapproved channel” to gain information about IDF findings and deployments.

Bennett was “using military information for political ends,” Ya’alon charged at the time.

The army ended Operation Protective Edge in late August after saying it had destroyed all 31 cross-border tunnels dug for attacks against Israelis, but senior officers admitted at the time that “one or two” tunnels could have gone undetected.

Gazan fighters used the tunnels for several attacks against Israeli forces, sometimes penetrating deep into Israeli territory. In one attack on an IDF post near Kibbutz Nahal Oz during the summer operation, five soldiers were killed.

Unnamed security sources have said recently that Hamas is working to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure as well as rearm its depleted rocket arsenal.

In October, a Vanity Fair report confirmed rumors that before the summer’s war, Hamas was planning to insert hundreds of terrorists into Israel via underground tunnels, to kidnap and kill a large number of Israelis.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed during the summer war, according to UN figures, which said most of them were civilians. Israel said some 1,000 of the fatalities were Hamas operatives and other gunmen, and blamed Hamas for all civilian casualties, arguing that the group attacked Israel from within residential areas.

Hamas and other terror groups fired over 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel, and staged several deadly attacks against IDF soldiers through cross-border tunnels. Seventy-three people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers, were killed during the operation.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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