Comptroller to A-G: Probe leak of Gaza war report
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Comptroller to A-G: Probe leak of Gaza war report

Yosef Shapira says premature release of classified documents is criminal offense; Knesset to convene special session to discuss breach

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (Flash90)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, October 29, 2014 (Flash90)

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Sunday requested that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit launch an investigation into the leak of his secret, reportedly damming report on the government’s handling of Israel’s 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Shapira told Mandelblit that the highly classified draft report was sent last week to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and other government officials who served in the security cabinet at the time of the war, the Haaretz daily reported.

He said the premature release and publication of information from a top secret document was a criminal offense punishable by up to a year in jail.

Also Sunday, the Knesset called for a special plenum session to address the leaked report and its findings.

The session was called after opposition lawmakers from the Zionist Union, Joint (Arab) List and Meretz parties garnered the necessary support from Knesset members. The date for the plenum discussion has yet to be set.

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon told Army Radio on Sunday afternoon that he fully expects Netanyahu to attend the session, “in order to provide the public with some answers.”

According to media sources who saw the 70-page document last week, Shapira’s report accused Netanyahu and Ya’alon of failing to provide the security cabinet with real-time updates regarding the imminent threat of war with Hamas, or the capabilities of the terror group’s cross-border attack tunnels.

The prime minister and the defense minister were also said to conceal warnings from the Shin Bet security agency, which raised the potential for war with Hamas in early July 2014, according to Channel 10. The 50-day conflict, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, began on July 8, 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (left), and then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (right) visit the Hatzor Air Base, August 27, 2014. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center), Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (left), and then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (right) visit the Hatzor Air Base, August 27, 2014. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

Members of the security cabinet were only apprised of the Shin Bet warning once the operation was underway, the report said.

According to the Maariv newspaper, among the officials hit hardest in the draft was then-IDF chief Benny Gantz, “who is exposed as a weak chief of staff who was out of touch with reality.”

Netanyahu, it added, “is depicted as having no crisis management abilities.”

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily said the draft found the security establishment “did not have a comprehensive plan for dealing with Hamas’s offensive tunnels” during the conflict.

Hamas’s tunnels were used to devastating effect on a number of occasions during the war 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,” it said.

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Ya’alon hit back at Shapira, dismissing the report as “not serious.”

Sources close to the two men said they rejected the claims against them in the draft.

Yuval Steinitz, a senior Likud minister loyal to Netanyahu, said Friday the reported findings of the report “bore no relation” to the report’s true content.

“The operation was conducted with unprecedented transparency vis-à-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.

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

The Israeli military destroyed over 30 Hamas tunnels during the 2014 operation, and recently uncovered two sophisticated tunnels — including one on Thursday — that lead into Israeli territory.

Following the conflict, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) into 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 Gaza Strip, according to a report by the southern city’s Nasser Hospital.

The Israeli fire came in response to a spate of mortar attacks on troops along the Gaza border fence since Tuesday.

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