Netanyahu wasn’t ready for Gaza tunnel war
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.—