Unless the Hamas tunnel threat is eliminated Operation Protective Edge will be a failure and Israeli citizens on the front lines will remain in mortal danger, the head of the Eshkol Regional Council said Sunday.
"This is not a matter of if you're on the right or left, this is a situation that was forced upon them [Eshkol region residents]. They see no joy in the attacks in Gaza but they were forced into this," Eshkol Regional Council head Chaim Yellin said Sunday.
On Thursday over a dozen gunmen infiltrated into Israel near Sufa in the Eshkol region, and on Saturday, another infiltration was foiled near the Eshkol town of Ein Hashlosha. On Sunday, the IDF announced that they had found another tunnel, this one dug deep into Israel underneath Nativ Haasarah in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council.
The threat has become so instilled in the minds of residents that many report hearing the sound of digging underneath their houses late at night. Yellin said when these complaints are made, the IDF is called to investigate and the sound usually turns out to be from an animal or local infrastructure, if it is found at all. Yellin said that at the moment the residents of the council's 15 kibbutzim and 13 moshavim are facing different levels of danger based on their location. In the communities closest to Gaza as much as 75% of the residents have relocated to areas farther from the Gaza Strip and the rockets, mortars, and tunnel threat, while those farther from Gaza for the most part remain. He said in some of those communities farthest from Gaza as much as 85% of people remain.
In the most vulnerable communities, those who remain now are mainly a skeleton crew of sorts, working the local farms and dairy facilities, and manning other community businesses.
He said that in each of the communities, security is being provided by a mix of IDF soldiers and local security teams, and that there is in every town a team of 5-10 people always ready to respond to an infiltration at any moment.
"If they had signed a ceasefire before without this being solved it would have remained a source of terror attacks," Yellin said.
For the council head the threat is obvious – all it would take is a single successful infiltration to cause widespread destruction.
"All they need is to just one time attack a yishuv or kidnap a soldier. This is a strategic threat, not a practical one."