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Tunnel vision: Digging for tunnels, attacking commanders

Analysis: IDF intelligence forces say Hamas efforts to dig Gaza terror tunnels are professional and wide reaching; meanwhile, IDF targets homes of commanders, begging question: What is the operation's true target - tunnels or Hamas' leadership?

Yossi Yehoshua
Published: 07.31.14, 01:08 / Israel Opinion

The IDF has unearthed numerous entrances to over 32 secret terror tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Israel, the majority of which were supposed to serve terrorists attempting to penetrate and attack Israel.

 

 

As the military and political leadership trade blame over how much was known about the full extent of the threat posed by these tunnels before Operation Protective Edge began, Military Intelligence say they now know more than ever before about the tremendous industry behind them.

 

The IDF claim that each tunnel costs roughly $3 million to complete. In the interrogations of 179 Palestinians arrested in Gaza, who were questioned by members of the Military Intelligence's Unit 504, it was revealed that scores of Hamas operatives were active in supervising the tunnel digging and that the process was highly compartmentalized, with each digging cell isolated from the others.

 

The majority of diggers were actually unaffiliated professionals who worked for Hamas and had little to no knowledge regarding the tunnels' routes or where they ended.

 

Despite the fact that by definition this operation was tasked with taking out tunnels used for terror (as opposed to smuggling) it is wrong to view it solely through that prism.

 

The IDF, namely the air force, promised the public a short and strong offensive in which targeted attacks would hit high quality targets. The IDF had emptied its target bank from the last Gaza operation a year and a half ago – Operation Pillar of Defense – and has since banked an additional 1,257 targets which the IDF put in its sights upon embarking on Operation Protective Edge.

 

During the operation itself the IDF has added another 2,423 targets to the bank and all in all has targeted over 3,900 targets in Gaza – a number of which were hit more than once. According to the military, 1,542 rocket launching sites were hit as well as 143 arms factories and outposts.

 

However it seems that one number summarizes the operation's true goal: The IDF has hit over 678 homes of Hamas commanders which were turned into terror command centers. This is a very high number, but sadly the IDF did not succeed to hit the commanders themselves, which are hiding inside bunkers or moving with packs of civilian shields.

 

The IDF understands today that if they would have targeted the commanders themselves and not just their homes that level of deterrence achieved would have been much higher.

 

Those who have heard senior IDF officers in recent days must notice that they seem to be addressing the special inquiry committees which they sense will be set up after the operation ends to examine how and why the extent of the threat posed by the tunnels was unknown and was not addressed before hand.

 

Their comments seem to indicate that the IDF fears that it has dealt only a limited blow to the tunnels, or at least one not as dramatic as was promised by political leadership, possibly unrealistically.

 

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