On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Hamas attacked Israel from tunnels dug in the Gaza Strip, the IDF would respond with “much more force than Operation Protective Edge.”
Addressing critics who have accused Netanyahu of not doing enough to thwart Hamas’s network of terror tunnels, which the terrorist organization has used in the past to attack and abduct Israeli soldiers and infiltrate Israeli communities, Netanyahu promised, “We are working methodically and calmly against all threats, including threats from Hamas, both with defensive and offensive measures.”
He added, “In the event we are attacked from tunnels in the Gaza Strip, we will act very forcefully against Hamas, and with much more force than Operation Protective Edge.”
2014’s Operation Protective Edge, which was sparked by an increasing barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel, saw an IDF ground invasion of the Hamas-controlled Strip that targeted Hamas infrastructure, destroyed 34 tunnels and used up two-thirds of the terror group’s rocket arsenal. Rebuilding costs in Gaza were estimated at four to six billion dollars over 20 years.
Despite that, the IDF has announced in recent weeks that Hamas is already prepared for a new conflict with Israel, having rebuilt its tunnel system and restocked its arsenals.
Hamas tunnels have been in the news often of late, as Israeli residents living near the Gaza border report hearing sounds and feeling physical vibrations of new tunnels being dug underneath their homes. Last week, several Hamas tunnel-diggers were killed in Gaza when a tunnel under construction collapsed due to rain.
Israelis living on the Gaza-Israel border have voiced anger and disappointment that the IDF has not built protective barriers against the tunnels as it promised it would do following Operation Protective Edge.
In a call for action prior to Netanyahu’s assertion, the Times of Israel reported Knesset opposition chief Isaac Herzog as saying, “The political leadership must provide a clear public answer to the citizens. [It must] stop hesitating…. They must instruct the IDF to bomb the tunnels and destroy this threat. Especially if there are tunnels that have already crossed the border into Israel.”
He continued angrily, “Why are we waiting? For terrorists, with their weapons drawn, to emerge in a kibbutz or a moshav?”
Herzog predicted that if action was not taken, the government would “wake up and discover, once again, that we underestimated the seriousness of the threat,” warning, “It will cost us in blood and terrible sorrow.”