An Israeli army officer during an army organized tour for journalists in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian terrorists for cross-border attacks.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A commission of more than 30 IDF officers found shortcomings in the military’s efforts to detect and block Hamas terrorist tunnels leading up to 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, Army Radio reported Tuesday.
All commanders involved in the operation were questioned by the committee, led by Maj.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, which reportedly found failures at all levels that harmed the forces’ ability to be prepared for the operation.
During Operation Protective Edge, on July 17, 2014, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa by the Gaza border and were stopped by IDF soldiers, two of whom were killed. Several other tunnels were discovered during the operation and four more soldiers were killed in related combat.
The partially classified report said the IDF knew there was a tunnel threat, but not how big it was. Thus, the divisions were not prepared to deal with them, and any preparation they did do was insufficient and led to problematic situations in the field, according to Army Radio.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said that the committee’s conclusions were integrated in the IDF and Southern Command’s plans.
“The matter of dealing with underground matters is at the top of our priorities and great efforts are invested in building the force, through operative plans and actions in the field to the give the best response to the threat,” the IDF Spokesperson told Army Radio.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who was in the diplomatic-security cabinet during Protective Edge, praised the report for its transparency.
“This is exactly how things should be investigated, and I am proud of the IDF that it is not afraid to check itself. The political level should do the same and not try to find who is guilty for the tunnel matter,” he stated. “I’ll do everything possible in the cabinet so that the IDF and the State of Israel are ready for the next threat. That is our central responsibility.”
The state comptroller is expected to release a report in the coming weeks stating the government was not prepared for the tunnel threat.
In advance of the report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his cabinet held discussions on the issue as early as January 2013, and according to information seen by The Jerusalem Post
, Netanyahu did in fact convene eight cabinet meetings between January 2013 and the eve of Operation Protective Edge to specifically address and tackle the issue of tunnels.
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah said that it’s been obvious since Protective Edge that, while the operation was not a surprise, the IDF was not ready with its objectives, operative plans or trained forces.
“Quoting the protocol in random places in which the prime minister said ‘tunnels,’ as Netanyahu does when appearing before reporters, will not change this fact, which we will see in the comptroller’s report, as well,” Shelah stated. “The question is who takes responsibility and behaves appropriately. The IDF… is doing that. The prime minister, however, is trying to fog up the facts, is not changing the way the cabinet works or the faulty way in which he deals with the most important thing in our lives: Israel’s security.”
MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union), a reserve major-general, called the report courageous and said it shows the IDF is trying to learn from and fix its mistakes.
“The way to deal with failures is to recognize them and fix them. The IDF is doing this well and is in a different place – ready for the next campaign,” he said.
The government, however, is trying to weaken the impact of the comptroller’s report, Ben-Reuven argued.
“This is the wrong way to fix things. The prime minister should look in the mirror, take the report seriously and make sure to change for the future,” he added.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.