The unanswered questions about the IDF’s actions against Gaza terrorist tunnels Thursday night, Oct. 31 point to operational flaws. Not surprisingly, the IDF announced Friday that the operation will be subjected to a special inquiry.
Most reports agree that a bomb trap was planted in the tunnel discovered last month running from Khan Younes in the Gaza Strip to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosaha and was triggered when the combat engineering unit approached the tunnel with equipment for destroying it. Five men were injured, one seriously, including a Lt. Colonel and a major.
It is hard to escape this major lapse in surveillance on the part of the Southern Command chiefs and the field officers who planned the operation. It poses the next question: How did Hamas manage to plant a bomb trap in the 1.5 km tunnel unnoticed three weeks after it was uncovered by the IDF?
At the time, the army spokesman said the tunnel had branches and niches for concealing explosives. Maybe they were there all the time. And why was the tunnel not examined and made safe before the engineering unit went into action?
Four days ago, Monday, Oct. 29, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and a group of generals were photographed visiting the exposed tunnel. What if they had run into the same booby-trap as the engineering unit Thursday? Were they lucky or had it not yet been put in position?
None of the answers to these questions turned up by the IDF investigation are likely to be good.
1. If Hamas planted the explosives in the tunnel before the minister’s visit, it would have hoped to bring off a major coup by assassinating Israel’s defense minister and several high generals at the lowest moment in its fortunes.
2. If the bombs were inserted later, Hamas may have got the idea when its spotters watching to see what the army was doing with the tunnel saw the minister and retinue visiting.
The commanders of Hamas’s military arm the Ezz a-din Al Al-Qassam, Mohamed Deif and Marwan Issa, would have seen their chance of an ambush and planted it there ready for the IDF operation. How come that no Israeli commander took this eventuality into account?
A senior IDF officer issued this version of the event: The engineering unit was not inside the tunnel when the bomb trap went off, but outside, after dropping a drill through a hole in the ceiling to be used for widening one of the openings. The drill struck the bombs and five members of the unit were injured outside the tunnel by the very powerful blast.
This doesn’t explain why an inspection of the tunnel was not ordered before the operation, taking a possible trap into account.
The same question applies to the prime minister and defense minister. They failed to take into account that the Obama administration would feel obliged to prove its non-involvement in the Israeli air strikes in Syria, conducted Thursday night to destroy anti-air missiles destined for Hizballah. This was proven by betrayal of the air strikes through leaks to US media.
Israeli government and army leaders were beside themselves with fury. But their mistake was to believe they could continue to trust America after long years of military and strategic collaboration in the Middle East arena, even though President Obama amply demonstrated he had opted for a separate agenda often divorced from Israel’s interests.
One of the conclusions from the events of the last 24 hours is that certain home improvements are called for in the Israeli armed forces, before they are ready to go for the big game, Iran’s nuclear program. Flaws keep on turning up in minor operations. The measure of a strong army and a serious military option is to be found less in its advanced weaponry and generous budget and more in performance on the ground. The tunnel operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip exposed vulnerabilities typical of an army which has not been called to fight in more than two years. They are minor but require serious attention.