חשיפה: צה”ל גילה מנהרה של חמאס בגבול רצועת עזה. הצנזורה מונעת פרסום כבר כ-10 ימים
Three days ago, Israeli Army Radio tried to report a story that the IDF had massed excavation equipment and surveillance drones and been working diligently on the Gaza side of the border for over a week. Though it didn’t say what the IDF was doing, the clear implication was that they had discovered a major tunnel headed toward Israeli territory. The report was censored by the military censor. We don’t know why it was censored.
Residents of southern Israel are already on tenterhooks at this possibility. Individuals have regularly claimed to hear clanging and digging underground and reported it to authorities, who haven’t been able to resolve what’s going on. There are rumors that Israel has flooded or caused explosions in similar tunnels resulting in the deaths of those excavating them. But nothing definite has confirmed these reports.
The Galey Tzahal story was based on a original report from the independent Palestinian news agency Maan.
There is something unusual about this particular tunnel that motivates the censor to restrict coverage. According to the Army Radio report, the tunnel was discovered two weeks ago. Again, we don’t know why the report was delayed for this long.
The story has begun to leak out in dribs and drabs. Maariv’s front page headline is: “[Israeli Border] Residents: We Feel Something is Happening [in Gaza] and Rely on the IDF.” Civilian officials in the region have also disseminated messages to residents asking them to be patient and trust in the army to keep them safe. Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir himself released a statement indicating the army had things well in hand.
Yisrael HaYom also quotes Ismail Haniyeh ominously threatening Israel: “We’re sending a message of blood to our prisoners in Zionist prisons–the rifle and the tunnel.”
Reading between the lines, Hamas has warned Israeli twice in the past six months that it has Israeli prisoners (I’ve identified them, breaking Israeli censorship) and that it wishes to negotiate their release in an exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The Netanyahu government has ignored these messages. Despite the fact that Gershon Baskin has told me he is working in some capacity, as he did in the case of Gilad Shalit, on behalf of such an exchange, I see no evidence of serious activity. Baskin blames Hamas, claiming they unrealistically seek the freedom of 4,000 prisoners. I’ve never heard any such claim from Hamas, nor have Israeli journalists I’ve consulted.
If Hamas has built this tunnel it may be an added message that it can escalate matters if Israel refuses to negotiate.
Returning to all those soothing messages from Israeli generals and officials: when do you really start to worry? When those who normally do their jobs quietly and behind the scenes all of a sudden clamor to tell you there’s nothing to worry about. Why is all this important? Because situations like this are precisely those which precede an Israeli war. Usually, Israel engages in a provocation, Hamas responds and then we’re off to the races. Israel invades, thousands die. Etc., etc, ad infinitum, death without end.
What could happen here? If Hamas built a tunnel which it planned to use to cross into Israel (to capture an Israeli soldier to hold in a prisoner exchange possibly), then Israel can be expected to respond aggressively. If Israel does and crosses a red line in terms of the intensity of the attack, then Hamas will retaliate. Once that happens all bets are off. And the gloves may come off as well.
That is precisely what 1-million Israelis living in the far south fear. A renewed war. Rockets falling, running to shelters, homes blown to smithereens. As to what Gazans fear, they have so little as it is, and so little has been done for them since the last disastrous war, who’s to say whether they have the capacity to fear any more than they already do? What more can they lose they haven’t lost already?
In the past, I’ve forecast a Gaza war every two years or so. The last one was Operation Protective Edge in 2014. By my count, just like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions come in imprecisely timed waves, the Netanyahu government is due to use Gaza once again for a punching bag any time now. Cynical, but true.