Ne­tanyahu wasn’t ready for Gaza tun­nel war

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

JERUSALEM: Is­rael’s Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu failed to pre­pare his coun­try for Ha­mas’s use of tun­nels dur­ing the 2014 Gaza war, ac­cord­ing to a key re­port cited by lo­cal me­dia yes­ter­day.

A two-year in­quiry by state comp­trol­ler Yossef Shapira re­port­edly found that de­spite in­tel­li­gence warn­ings, Ne­tanyahu only be­lat­edly and par­tially in­formed his cab­i­net of the dan­ger.

Shapiro, who is in charge of as­sess­ing state poli­cies and the use of pub­lic funds, opened the in­quiry soon af­ter the July-Au­gust 2014 con­flict be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas, the Is­lamist group which con­trols the Gaza strip. His long-awaited re­port, which min­is­ters and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials re­ceived Thurs­day, has not been pub­licly re­leased but lo­cal me­dia cited of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with its con­tents.

Pre­vent­ing Pales­tinian mil­i­tants from launch­ing rock­ets from Gaza into Is­rael and de­stroy­ing Ha­mas tun­nels were Is­rael’s key goals when it launched the 2014 as­sault, its third war in the coastal ter­ri­tory in six years.

Is­rael’s bor­der with Gaza is sealed by a closely mon­i­tored se­cu­rity bar­rier. But dur­ing the war, Is­rael’s mil­i­tary found 32 tun­nels, in­clud­ing 14 that ex­tended from the Gaza Strip into Is­rael, ac­cord­ing to a UN in­quiry into the con­flict.

Gaza mil­i­tants used the tun­nels dur­ing com­bat, in­clud­ing to carry out cross-bor­der at­tacks. The Is­raeli army said it de­stroyed over 30 tun­nels dur­ing the 50-day con­flict. A draft of Shapira’s re­port in Oc­to­ber re­port­edly slammed Ne­tanyahu and Moshe Yaalon, who was de­fense min­is­ter at the time. It was quoted as say­ing the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment “did not have a com­pre­hen­sive plan for deal­ing with Ha­mas’s of­fen­sive tun­nels”. A se­nior army of­fi­cial said last month that Is­raeli troops should have been bet­ter pre­pared for tun­nel war­fare.

A source close to Ne­tanyahu on Fri­day re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion that he had not ad­e­quately in­formed his cab­i­net of the threat. The threat was dis­cussed “with all the se­ri­ous­ness re­quired at 13 dif­fer­ent meet­ings,” the source said.

The war killed 2,251 Pales­tini­ans and left 100,000 home­less, ac­cord­ing to the UN. On the Is­raeli side, 73 peo­ple were killed, most of them sol­diers. The UN re­port said both Is­rael and Pales­tinian mil­i­tants may have com­mit­ted war crimes, de­cry­ing “un­prece­dented” dev­as­ta­tion and hu­man suf­fer­ing.

The Shapiro re­port may be po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing for Ne­tanyahu, who has faced crit­i­cism from po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents over the tun­nels.—

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