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Ex-commander: Israel isn’t stopping Hamas digging tunnels under border

  • A year after Gaza war, Israel tests new anti-tunnel measures

  • Hamas member killed after Gaza tunnel suffers malfunction

An Israeli army officer walks during an army organised tour for journalists in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, July 25, 2014. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed regional leaders to nail down a Gaza ceasefire on Friday as the civilian death toll soared, and further violence flared between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. REUTERS/Jack Guez/Pool (CIVIL UNREST MILITARY POLITICS CONFLICT) - RTR405EB

Hamas is digging attack tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border, and Israel is failing to take actions to stop it, a former senior military commander told a security conference on Monday.

Speaking at an event entitled ‘Operation Protective Edge to the Third Intifada?’ organized by the Institute for National Security Studies, former officers offered scathing criticism of government policies at the Sapir Academic College in Sderot.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, former OC Southern Command, said the government has consistently been setting ambiguous goals for the IDF during times of conflict, goals “that cannot be checked or measured for achievements.”

Samia, who said he was part of the team of officers who formulated goals during past Israeli operations in Gaza, said the government is forcing the IDF to set poorly defined goals, while failing to order preventative action between rounds of fighting.

Although the defense establishment knew all about Hamas’s tunnel activities prior to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, “no preventative action was taken on tunnels,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, right now there are tunnels being dug under the [border] fence,” and Israel is failing to stop this.

“The IDF has lost the ability to go to the government, when it is quiet, and say, this is intolerable, we’d like to initiate preventative actions. The result is more tunnels. Unfortunately, this is continuing right now.”

Part of the problem, Samia said, is the very nature of the Israeli government model, which leads to a “lack of sovereignty.”

He also blasted the way Israel had reacted in the past to kidnappings of soldiers and civilians, affirming that kidnappings should not turn into “strategic events that shock the country. We must stop this nonsense, and I said that without trivializing human lives.”

“In my eyes, Gilad Schalit was a war captive. We gave him a $30 million tank and a crew. He was captured. Captives can be released through ransom, but the country should not go into hysteria. Israel did not carry out any anti-Hamas operation for five years for fear of killing a hostage. [Then] we learned that price of releasing him was 800 terrorists, with blood on their hands,” Samia said, adding, “I think this realization is starting to trickle down in the IDF.”

Samia also criticized the way the IDF reacted to the kidnapping of the late Lt. Hadar Goldin on August 1, 2014, in Gaza, when the IDF opened heavy fire from the air and artillery fire in Rafah and activated the Hannibal protocol, killing dozens of Palestinians.

“After Black Friday, I sat in the command room and I felt bad. We turned over the whole city, and I knew it would not lead anywhere,” Samia said.

Samia also said the existing rate of conflicts in Gaza is unsustainable for the Israeli economy.

“Operation Cast Lead in 2010 did not prevent Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and that in turn did not prevent Operation Protective Edge in 2014. I can say that Operation Protective Edge will not prevent the next operation. Unless [the next operation] will be different, and unless it will have a different goal, [it too won’t prevent subsequent conflicts],” Samia said.

To have an operation “every other year is ‘checkmate’ for tourism and for business. In fewer than nine years we had four complex rounds of fighting [including the Second Lebanon War] – rounds of fighting in which most Israelis were in safe rooms or bomb shelters.”

Samia praised the IDF’s field units, saying that battalion, brigade, and company commanders are outstanding officers who strive to engage


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