'Our tunnel counter-measures are hidden from public view,' chief of staff says

Those calling for 'Defensive Shield 2' not aware of reality on the ground, Lt.-Gen. Eisenkot says.

A smuggling tunnel beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
A smuggling tunnel beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The military’s extensive counter-measures against the Hamas tunnel threat from Gaza are mostly hidden from public view, and rely on the most advanced technology and engineering capabilities, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.
Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Fourth Annual Conference in Memory of Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin Shahak, held at the IDC, Herzliya, Eisenkot said he is not at liberty to discuss most of the IDF Southern command’s efforts to deal with Hamas tunnels, but assured the public that major efforts are under way.
Since 2013, he said, “this has been at the top of the IDF’s priority list. There has been an ongoing intelligence effort,” he added.
Since Israel destroyed 33 cross-border tunnels in the summer 2014 conflict, “Hamas has chosen to invest many resources into rebuilding this capability against the State of Israel. A large portion of their money goes to building underground capabilities.
We are activating technological and engineering efforts.
We have the most advanced capability in the world, and [yet] this is still a very big challenge,” Eisenkot stated.
“There is wide-scale activity to initiate on our part, to sabotage and reach all underground shafts, out of an understanding that this the central threat. We are carrying out many efforts, most of which are hidden from view.
Those who wander around the Strip today will see many engineering vehicles working in a focused way, as much as this is possible. The question of whether to launch a preemptive attack will be discussed where it should be discussed,” the chief of staff added.
He noted that 2015 was the “quietest year we had in Gaza since 1970. Not a single civilian or soldier was scratched.
We hope this situation continues for a long time.” Eisenkot added that 900 trucks carrying goods enter Gaza on a daily basis.
Addressing the wave of Palestinian terrorism that has been afflicting the country for the past four months, Eisenkot said, “Israeli society has been dealing with terrorism since its inception. A few years ago, I checked and found that the first terrorist attack occurred in 1851, when Rabbi Shlomo Zalman was stabbed by Arabs during a visit to a synagogue and died.”
Today, he said, social media incitement has come up as a central motive during interrogations of Palestinian lonewolf terrorists. “It is the same viral element that explains why tens of thousands of youths join ISIS,” he said.
“New media have replaced city squares.”
The Palestinian arena is experiencing instability due to a perceived change in the status quo of the Temple Mount, a decrease in the standing of Arab society, and a difficult economic reality, Eisenkot added. “The violence started in Jerusalem, and penetrated Hebron. “ The defense establishment is struggling to figure out how to deter and issue advance intelligence warnings for lone attackers prepared to sacrifice their lives and kill, Eisenkot said.
“How can you build an alert against a lone knife attacker, who writes [on Facebook] that he is going to attack, and sets out to do so after an hour?” The IDF is trying to build up new intelligence via social-media monitoring, he said.
It is possible to defeat terrorism, Eisenkot said, pointing to Israel’s victory of the fiveyear wave of suicide terrorism from 2000 to 2005, which claimed 1,178 Israeli lives and left 15,000 wounded.
During that time, he said, some 7,000 Palestinian terrorists were prepared to sacrifice their lives in suicide bombings. “Most were arrested before they could attack,” he added.
Organized terrorism in the West Bank is being kept in check by intelligence and the activities of six IDF divisions, made up of tens of battalions, who work every night, Eisenkot said. The IDF is focused on ensuring that 161 Israeli communities in the West Bank and tens of thousands of vehicles receive protection.
“This becomes much more complicated when we talk about a person who does not rely on an organized infrastructure. Everyone has a knife at home, and they can go out and commit an attack,” he cautioned.
“Those who do not know the reality on the ground call for a second Operation Defensive Shield. The IDF [already] has full freedom, and does not differentiate between Areas A, B, and C.,” he said, in apparent references to political calls by those such as Education Minister Naftali Bennett to set out on a major new West Bank offensive.
Alongside nightly arrests and intelligence gathering, the IDF seeks to separate the wider Palestinian population from terrorists, and while trying to foster “hope, and income” to prevent the emergence of more attackers, Eisenkot said.
“There is incitement by the Palestinian leadership and in the Palestinian media. There is basic incitement in the Palestinian educational system,” he added. Ninety-five percent of knife attackers are single youths, he said, many of whom were exposed to incitement via social media, before deciding to act.
“There has been only one case of a Palestinian with an Israeli work permit who carried out an attack, and so far, one relative of a Palestinian with an Israeli work permit perpetrated a terrorist attack.
The workers bring money and hope home. It would be hard to imagine reality if 100,000 such people were under a closure. Their access [to jobs in Israel] is a clear Israeli interest, as is developing their economy,” the chief of staff said.