The IDF underestimated the tunnel threat and also intentionally did not publicize the extent of the threat that was known before the war in order not to “spark undue concern” in Gaza Belt communities,” Defense News reported Saturday.
Barbara Opall-Rome reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz invited her earlier this year for an on-site briefing with military commanders.
“I reluctantly agreed to demands that the mid-March day trip remain off the record,” she wrote, but the restrictions have seen been lifted.
IDF officers showed her a tunnel that was dug from central Gaza to the vicinity of near Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha. A few days earlier, the IDF announced it extended 300 yards into Israeli territory.
“It became immediately clear: The IDF had grossly misrepresented the severity of the underground breach, which extended perilously close to the kibbutz perimeter,” Opall-Rome wrote.
“Brig. Gen. Micky Edelstein, Gaza Division commander, took my hand as we descended several meters to the exposed opening,” she added. “We didn’t have to traverse far inside to realize the sophistication of the freshly built structure,” which it turned out extended nearly half a mile beyond the Gaza security fence.
The tunnel was approximately 7 feet high and three feet wide, large enough for a fully-equipped terrorist to use it to carry out a slaughter at the kibbutz, a plan that was foiled at almost the last-minute in this summer’s war.
It was clear to the IDF commanders that the threat of tunnel was a high-priority issue.
Why didn’t the ID simply explode the tunnel back in March?
“There’s no need to spark undue concern in neighboring communities,” Col. Amos HaCohen, commander of the Gaza South Brigade, told her.
Gantz said at the time. “There’s a lot of things related to the tunnels from Gaza that worries me,” he said, and added that Hamas “improving this [tunnel-based] strategy… and challenging us to a point where it could be we will be dragged into another conflict.”
The rest is history.