Dichter: Seaport in Hamas hands is bigger threat than tunnels
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Dichter: Seaport in Hamas hands is bigger threat than tunnels

Likud MK, ex-Shin Bet chief lines up with Netanyahu and Ya’alon in rejecting idea of giving Gaza port access to ease economic pressure

Illustrative: Palestinians wave flags as they ride boats in support of activists aboard a flotilla made up of four boats aimed at defying Israel's blockade of Gaza, at the seaport of Gaza City on June 28, 2015. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinians wave flags as they ride boats in support of activists aboard a flotilla made up of four boats aimed at defying Israel's blockade of Gaza, at the seaport of Gaza City on June 28, 2015. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Building a sea port in the Gaza Strip would constitute a greater threat to Israel than the tunnel network the IDF sought to destroy in its 2014 war with the Hamas terror group, Likud MK Avi Dichter warned Saturday.

“Tunnels may even be preferable, since the merchandise passing through [them] can be monitored more thoroughly than one can check goods coming in through a seaport,” Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, told a cultural event in Yahud.

Last month media outlets said Hamas has succeeded in rebuilding its tunnel network almost to pre-war levels.

As the international community scrambled to forge a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in summer 2014, the group demanded the construction of a seaport as a condition to ending the fighting. Israel has avoided committing to the construction of such a port, and has maintained a blockade on Gaza designed to prevent Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weapons.

The Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday that some senior IDF officials support the idea of easing the pressure on Hamas, amid a worsening economic situation in Gaza that could lead to new conflict, by giving Gaza access of some kind to a seaport. It said a range of possible port arrangements — including an artificial offshore island to hold a port — are being discussed at senior military and political levels, in part because of the worsening economic situation in Gaza and consequent Israeli concern over renewed conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon flatly oppose all such ideas, however, the newspaper report said.

Avi Dichter speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel (photo credit: AP/File)
Likud Knesset member Avi Dichter (AP/File)

Israel denied Friday Hamas claims that the construction of the port was a key element in ongoing negotiations with Turkey to end years of tensions with the once-close ally.

During the 2014 war, Hamas gunmen emerged from the tunnels on several occasions to ambush IDF forces, killing several soldiers. Two months after the war ended, an IDF spokesman said Hamas had planned to use the tunnels for a massive coordinated attack inside Israel. “They planned to send 200 terrorists armed to the teeth toward civilian populations,” Peter Lerner said in October 2014.

Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border (Ynet screenshot)
Still from an August 2015 Hamas video purporting to show a Gaza tunnel dug under the Israeli border (Ynet screenshot)

“This was going to be a coordinated attack. The concept of operations involved 14 offensive tunnels into Israel. With at least 10 men in each tunnel, they would infiltrate and inflict mass casualties.”

During the war, the IDF destroyed more than 30 tunnels.

On Wednesday, amid some reports that Hamas has rebuilt much of its tunnel network, Netanyahu told leaders of Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip that the army was working to end the threat of attack tunnels emanating from the coastal Palestinian territory.

 

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