Israeli Givati Brigade Soldier at entrance of Hamas tunnel, July 23, 2014
Source: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90
The long awaited and leaked report by Israeli Comptroller, Yosef Shapira, was published yesterday critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu and former Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. Despite Yaalon’s leaving the Netanyahu government in 2016, he came to the Prime Minister’s defense in light of the Comptroller criticism about lack of preparedness and intelligence, especially on the so-called terror tunnel threats.
On the matter of whether the conflict with Hamas could have been avoided through diplomacy, although there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Nonetheless, Operation Protective Edge cost 74 Israeli lives, 68 IDF soldiers, 6 civilians. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad luanched more than 12,000 rockets at gargets in Southern and Central Israel. The Palestinian Authority reported, 2,200 killed, civilians and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters. Further, to this day, Hamas has yet to return the remains of two IDF officers held hostage and killed.
The Wall Street Journal noted the Comptroller’s findings in its report, “Israel Comptroller Report Criticizes Netanyahu on Readiness for 2014 War”:
Israel’s government watchdog on Tuesday issued a highly critical report of the government and military’s preparedness for its 2014 Gaza Strip war with Hamas, increasing domestic pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down.
Mr. Netanyahu and other officials failed to thoroughly brief the government security cabinet on the threat of tunnels Hamas had dug into Israel for use in terror attacks, the report said. It challenged previous comments by Mr. Netanyahu that he had highlighted the issue to ministers in meetings, although the prime minister hasn’t made clear the extent of the discussions.
The military also was unprepared for the 50-day conflict with the Islamist movement, and the government hadn’t outlined strategic goals or considered all diplomatic initiatives before hitting Gaza with airstrikes, it said.
The much-anticipated special review by state comptroller Yosef Shapira was conducted to deduce insights ahead of future conflicts, Mr. Shapira said. Details had been steadily leaked to Israeli media, spurring a flood of recriminations between current and former Israeli officials.
“The report proves beyond any doubt that the prime minister knew about the strategic threat of the tunnels, didn’t order the [army] to prepare an operational plan, didn’t inform the security cabinet and didn’t tell the public the truth,” Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party who served as finance minister at the time of the war, said in a statement Tuesday.
The WSJ report noted Netanyahu’s reply:
Mr. Netanyahu has in recent days argued that the years since the war have been relatively calm for Israelis, underpinning the conflict’s success in damaging Hamas’s defense and weapons infrastructure.
“The [army] gave Hamas the hardest blow in its history,” he said following the report’s publication. “The unprecedented quiet in the communities around Gaza since [then] attest to the results.”
But his critics counter that Hamas has been replenishing its arsenal of rockets and rebuilding destroyed tunnels.
The group announced earlier this month that it had elected former militant commander Yahya Sinwar as its political leader in the Gaza Strip, indicating the growing influence of its armed wing.
We note that Iran has recently declared its support for Palestinian resistance. Sinwar , as the newly elected Hamas political leader has the backing of Iran. He was one of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners exchanged for IDF Sgt. Gilad Schalit in October 2011, despite his being convicted of five life sentence for the murder of so-called Palestinian Israeli collaborators.
As regarding, the Hamas tunnel threat a colleague, Ilana Freedman wrote an assessment of the problems the IDF encountered over a decade endeavoring to develop an effective tunnel detection system, mired in Ministry of Defense budget and priority in fighting. In an August 2014, New English Review, analysis of this problem, “Israel’s War with Hamas 2014: Part II - The Gaza Tunnel Threat,” we wrote:
The Mega-9/11 Rosh Hashanah Hamas Attack Plan that Stunned the IDF
By July 27, 2014, 20 days into the tough slog of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, more than 35 tunnels had been uncovered. American intelligence estimates there could be upwards of 60 tunnels in a network reached across the Gaza Israel frontier. That does not include the massive underground complex underneath Gaza, the "city under a city." A number of these were found to have entrances in homes, schools, apartment buildings and mosques. The Givati brigade has been assigned the dangerous tasks of inspecting these tunnels. After sending in small tactical robots to detect booby traps, the tunnels were inspected and, if possible, destroyed.
However, the obvious question is, why was the IDF caught flat footed by the enormity of the Hamas tunnel network when there were means available to map them? Despite the fact that many of the tunnels were being excavated more than 30 meters below the surface, technology was available to detect them.
Sheera Frenkel, Buzzfeed’s correspondent in Israel, reported:
Israeli military officers described an “underground city” in Shujayeh, made up of a labyrinth of tunnels in which Israeli soldiers clashed with Hamas fighters.
“Even with the intelligence the Israeli military keeps on Gaza, they were caught by surprise at the extent of what they found below ground,” said Amir Bohbot, a military affairs correspondent with Walla, a news site. “There were traps, explosives everywhere. There is no way for them to continue their operation without taking the risks of even heavier casualties.”
A source in Jerusalem told us this week that Tzahal was surprised by the extent of the tunnels. Dan Diker, Executive Producer for the Voice of Israel and its Chief Middle East Analyst, sent this chilling email message:
The news here is that Hamas was planning a doomsday mega attack for Rosh Hashanah, sending hundreds of Hamas Suicide commandos via the underground terror tunnel networks to conquer Israeli towns and cities. That is the meaning of the tunnel threat. It is the most serious strategic threat Israel has faced since the 1973 war. The failed conception is also notable as there is a real question as to whether the intelligence echelons recognized the seriousness of the threat.
But should they have? A noted Israeli geologist was cited in a Daily Telegraph U.K. article complaining that the tunnel threat had been overlooked by the Israeli Ministry of Defense:
"For 10 years I've been crying and screaming to the highest possible levels - to the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff, the commanding officers of southern and northern commands," Dr Joseph Langotsky, an Israeli geologist who has long advocated greater attention to the issue of the tunnels, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.
"Although the tunnels are a low-tech option, they might be a strategic threat to our security," said Dr Langotsky.
The heavily fortified areas of southern Lebanon that the IDF encountered in the 2006 Lebanon War should have raised alarm bells. Hezbollah, with the alleged technical assistance of Iranian Quds Force engineers, had prepared tunnels connecting command and control centers in villages, rocket launching areas, armories and firing positions. Moreover, Hezbollah with the aid of Iran and possibly North Korea had also dug tunnels underneath the northern frontier between Lebanon and Israel.
Following our interview with Dr. Sebastian Gorka yesterday on 1330amWEBY, Mike Bates and I addressed these criticisms in the Israeli Comptroller report on Operation Protective Edge. LISTEN to this PODCAST of the discussion. We noted:
- The internal bungling of the bureaucracy in the Israeli Ministry of Defense had prevented tests of competitive detection systems. Moreover, the disclosures of the terror tunnels in Operation Protective Edge had accelerated development, test and selection of a final contractor to install the detection system.
- We were skeptical as to whether diplomacy could have avoided the rocket and terror tunnel conflict , given funding and technology support provided by Qatar.
- Reports subsequent to the installation of the tunnel detection system following Operation Protective Edge indicated Hamas casualties in collapsed tunnels.
- Further, the IDF had considered building a concrete barrier 20 to 30 below the Israeli Gaza frontier, while Egypt had considered building a moat along its frontier crenellated with smuggler tunnel and flooded with seawater.
- On the conduct of military operations in Protective edge, we cited former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and personal military consultant to Israeli Prime Minister, Col. Richard E. Kemp, who testified to the proficiency of combat operations, effective rules of engagement, avoidance of civilian casualties, despite rocket launches by Hamas and PIJ from schools and apartment blocks.