The IDF does not know of any infiltration tunnels crossing from Lebanon into Israel, head of Northern Command, Major General Yair Golan, said Sunday.
Speaking to a forum of front line communities in Kfar Vradim in the North, Golan said that tunnels do not pose a strategic threat on the northern border, but that the IDF was prepared to handle the issue, despite being unable to confirm that any tunnels exist.
Hamas used the infiltration tunnels from Gaza to Israel to deadly effect during the war. In several incidents their gunmen used them to enter Israel near the Gaza border and attack IDF troops with anti-tank missiles and small arms fire, killing at least 10 soldiers.
Inside Gaza, terrorists utilized the tunnels to maneuver during gunfights and to safely retreat from IDF fire. A tunnel was used to spirit the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin deeper into Gaza and away from pursuing IDF soldiers.
Though the rockets and mortars were a source of anxiety for millions of Israelis, the tunnels represented a different fear, that of highly-trained gunmen popping out of the earth, raiding border communities and killing civilians.
The media repeatedly discussed nightmare scenarios, including simultaneous tunnel infiltrations. Such scenarios were boosted by the discovery of two motorcycles the IDF said had been stashed in a tunnel, apparently to allow gunmen to make their way deep into Israeli population centers.
The fear of infiltrations, along with the mortars and rockets, is one of the reasons for the exodus, which in some Gaza border communities saw more than 75 percent of residents flee further north during Operation Protective Edge.
While the terrain on the northern border is less easy to dig through than the soft dirt and sand surrounding Gaza, the possibility of tunnels on the Lebanon border, and that Hezbollah or others would use them to carry out terror attacks on northern communities has been the subject of wide discussion.
Raviv Gutman, head of security for Bir’am, the Kibbutz closest to the Lebanon border, said Monday that he understood the army was taking the issue very seriously and that he was confident that when the IDF said they hadn’t found tunnels, they’re telling the truth.
“It’s not like you hear in the media that they’re neglecting the residents of the north.
They’re taking it very seriously and as far as I know they haven’t found anything,” Gutman said, adding it was possible that tunnels existed, despite not having been found. When asked what an infiltration by armed gunmen would mean for Bir’am he said it’s simply “a horror movie that none of us wants to think about.”
Ido Gavish, the head of emergency response for Kibbutz Yiftah said that its residents, like those of kibbutzim and moshavim next to the Gaza border, had reported hearing the sounds of digging underneath their houses at night, though every report was found to be a false alarm. He said that in one case it turned out that a broken water pipe under the house of a kibbutz resident was responsible for the digging sound.
Gavish said “I think that the fear people have is justified, but baseless,” adding that he trusted the army and “that any officer responsible for this area wants to succeed.”
Regardless of how much he, and other residents of the kibbutz trust the army, he said that since the Hamas infiltrations began, the possibility of tunnels from Lebanon had become a hot topic on the pathways and communal areas of the kibbutz and had been a source of anxiety for some. He said that he didn’t know of anyone who said they were thinking about moving out of the kibbutz because of the threat.