IDF: ‘Cowardly’ tunnel attack shows why Gaza op must go on

Video of Hamas killing five soldiers demonstrates that ‘such attacks can happen anytime, anywhere,’ officer says

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A screenshot from the video showing Hamas gunmen infiltrating an IDF base inside Israel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, July 28, 2014. (YouTube: screenshot)
A screenshot from the video showing Hamas gunmen infiltrating an IDF base inside Israel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, July 28, 2014. (YouTube: screenshot)

A video showing Hamas gunmen emerging from a tunnel, infiltrating an Israeli army base and killing five soldiers, demonstrates that Israel is faced with a cruel and unforgiving enemy and must continue Operation Protective Edge until all remaining tunnels are destroyed, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

The video (warning: graphic content), filmed by one of the Hamas gunmen who participated in Monday evening’s attack on an army post south of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, was widely broadcast by Arab and Palestinian media outlets.

“These are the people we’re dealing with on a daily basis — cowardly terrorists who don’t care about human lives. They’re on an ongoing mission to kill and maim, and to abduct Israeli soldiers and civilians,” Maj. Arye Shalicar, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told The Times of Israel. “We have to be prepared for this to recur again and again around the Gaza Strip. Until we find and destroy each and every tunnel they have dug over the last few years, such attacks can happen anytime, anywhere.”

Likud MK Danny Danon said the video once again proved that the IDF needs to continue destroying Hamas’s tunnel infrastructure and must not give in to international pressure for a ceasefire before the mission is completed. “The video speaks for itself,” he said. “Only two weeks ago, the cabinet approved a ceasefire proposal, but Hamas still has dozens of tunnels. Had we stopped the operation two weeks ago, now they would attack civilians and children in kibbutzim instead of soldiers.”

Danon was fired from his post as deputy defense minister earlier this month over his sharp criticism of what be considered the government’s too hesitant response to Hamas rocket fire. “This video shows us the threat we’re dealing with: we have to deal with a professional and well-organized terrorist organization,” he told The Times of Israel.

“And you still hear voices that say we need to stop now with the ground operation. But we cannot stop as long as we know they have more tunnels, and have capacity to build more tunnels. If we don’t destroy their terror infrastructure, it’s only a matter of time until we will see more tunnels and more attacks like the one we saw in the video.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi acknowledged that although the Israeli government knew about the existence of Hamas’s tunnels, it might have underestimated the organization’s willingness to use them to carry out brutal attacks.

“Sometimes you don’t understand that they don’t need rational justification. They think that by killing, massacring, butchering your enemy, they’re going to achieve any of their goals,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t grasp, the way we should have, that these are tunnels that will be used for exactly the same atrocities” for which they are being used now.

Speaking more generally, Hanegbi said that Israel finds itself in a bind because its restrained way of conducting war is interpreted by Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups as feebleness, which invites yet even crueler attacks.

Tzachi Hanegbi (photo credit: Flash90)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (photo credit: Flash90)

“When we show restraint, the other side… translates any kind of moderation, any kind of sanity, as a sign of weakness, as a symptom that Israel is not really determined to defend itself,” he said. “In the West, when you have a more rational thinking, compromise is part of your culture and part of your life. Unfortunately, with fundamentalist, zealous organizations, such demonstrations of normality, of realism, of pragmatism, of moderation, are being translated as a sign of weakness. And when you see that your enemy is weak you go forward and try to harm him much more.”

One Hamas fighter was killed in the attack on the IDF post. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed a raid “behind enemy lines” in the same area and said it had killed 10 Israeli soldiers, but denied losses on its side. It said it had tried but failed to kidnap an Israeli soldier, and had seized a gun.

Yifa Yaakov and AFP contributed to this report.

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