Opposition head calls for IDF to bomb Gaza tunnels

As Israelis near Gaza border report digging sounds, Herzog blasts ‘idle’ government response to apparent Hamas rebuilding of underground attack system

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

In this Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, Israeli politicians Isaac Herzog, right, and Tzipi Livni listen during a tour along the Israel and Gaza Strip border.  (photo credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File )
In this Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, Israeli politicians Isaac Herzog, right, and Tzipi Livni listen during a tour along the Israel and Gaza Strip border. (photo credit: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File )

The Israeli army should bomb tunnels apparently being dug by Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory, the head of the political opposition said Sunday, attacking the lack of action from the government on the threat.

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog made the comments as Israel Defense Forces officials and southern residents have raised fears that Hamas is rebuilding a series of subterranean passages, used for attacking Israel, which were destroyed during the 2014 war between Israel and Gazan fighters.

“Hamas brags, and we are idle,” Herzog told regional council heads.

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, he added, according to the Walla news site.

“The political leadership must provide a clear public answer to the citizens. [It must] stop hesitating…. They must instruct the IDF to bomb the tunnels and destroy this threat. Especially if there are tunnels that have already crossed the border into Israel.”

Last week, a senior defense official said Hamas’s military wing had rehabilitated itself and was ready for a fresh round of hostilities with Israel. Other military leaders have said intensive tunnel rebuilding is underway.

Over the weekend, residents of areas near the Gaza Strip complained that tunnel digging into Israel from the Hamas-run territory has come so close to their homes that it has caused their floors to shake.

The head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Gadi Yarkoni, told Israel Radio that many residents have been complaining of hearing — and feeling — increased underground digging activity in recent weeks. In addition, they were disappointed that the IDF has failed to build protective barriers against the cross-border terror tunnels — as it had promised it would after the summer 2014 war in Gaza.

Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, built dozens of tunnels into Israel, many of which were used to carry out attacks against soldiers during the 2014 war. The IDF said it destroyed over 30 tunnels during the war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

Last week, at least seven people were killed in the course of digging a Hamas tunnel, which apparently caved in following heavy rains in the area.

On Saturday, the terror group publicized a new video clip, lauding what it called the unknown fighters who are “toiling day and night” to build the attack tunnels.

Screenshot of Hamas video clip. Credit: Walla
A still image from a Hamas video clip, January 2016 (screenshot: Walla)

The fighters have “rolled up their sleeves so that soldiers of Jihad [Holy War] will hurt the enemy more and more, in every future confrontation,” the clip says. The tunnels will enable Hamas to mount “many surprises,” and remain “a puzzle for which the Zionist enemy will not be able to find a solution.”

At a funeral Friday for the excavators killed in the cave-in, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said: “East of Gaza City, heroes are digging through rock and building tunnels, and to the west they are experimenting with rockets every day. The resistance continues on its path of liberation of the land.”

Sources in Gaza say 12 Hamas activists — in addition to the seven killed last week — have died during the past year during works to renovate the tunnels, Walla said.

Herzog pointed to Egyptian efforts to bomb and to flood the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai as a model for Israel.

“One day, we’ll wake up and discover that, once again, we underestimated the seriousness of the threat,” Herzog warned. “It will cost us in blood and terrible sorrow.

“Why are we waiting? For terrorists, with their weapons drawn, to emerge in a kibbutz or a moshav? The prime minister and the defense minister must provide an answer to the citizens.”


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