One of the most dynamic developments in the current Gaza war is the massive system of tunnels dug by Hamas militants in the past three years. The tunnels honeycomb the Strip and allow access for fighters not just to the battlefield within Gaza, but to the Israeli border itself, where there was a successful attack that killed two IDF officers. The tunnels, like those dug by Hezbollah in Lebanon, allowed Palestinian fighters to engage with the IDF when it was to their advantage and to disappear when it wasn’t. Unlike Operation Cast Lead, when Hamas largely evaporated and gave the IDF the run of Gaza, this time Hamas has stood and fought. Ten soldiers were killed in the 2009 war and 33 have been killed in this one.
But one question few people inside Israel are asking is: how could Israel’s vaunted intelligence agencies not have known what was going on in Gaza? Why were they virtually in the dark about a development as important as this? How could they have sent their forces into ambushes that cost so many lives and in which the troops sometimes didn’t know what hit them?
Yisrael HaYom notes that on the eve of the war, Israeli intelligence believed there were 9-13 (depending on which agency you asked) tunnels in Gaza. So far the IDF has identified 31. But U.S. satellite intelligence has detected at least 60, saying there may be more than that. That means that either the IDF is lying when it offers the smaller number; or it really believes there are only 31 and has further proven the slipshod intelligence offered to it.
I should add that the above Jerusalem Post report is based on information provided by Steve Emerson, an entirely unreliable source. But whether Emerson is wrong or right, it seems eminently reasonable to assume that the IDF, which didn’t know the extent of the tunnel network going into the war, may not yet know the extent of the network even after having its troops on the ground in Gaza.