Hamas has resumed its building of terror tunnels underneath the Gaza border with Israel since the end of Operation Protective Edge, and now they are planning more attacks in Judea and Samaria.
The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) discovered three Hamas terror cells in recent weeks in the Palestinian-ruled areas of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Ha’aretz reported.
This is in addition to the tunnel digging that’s been going on near the Gaza border. During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the IDF eliminated 32 tunnels. There is evidence that Hamas has resumed the effort on a large scale after the implementation of the ceasefire, and it’s reasonable to assume that they now have about the same number of tunnels as before the war.
The tunnels were part of a massive plot by Hamas to smuggle 200 terrorists into the south of Israel in order to kill and kidnap civilians and soldiers.
“In mid-December,” Ha’aretz notes, “Hamas eulogized an operative who had been one of Gilad Shalit’s guards when the IDF soldier was held captive between 2006 and 2011. The man, the organization said, had been killed following the collapse of a tunnel ‘east of Khan Yunis.’ The only thing in Gaza that’s east of Khan Yunis is the Israeli border.”
In fact, Hamas is using the cement it receives for humanitarian purposes to rebuild its terror tunnels instead of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip, a senior IDF officer charged recently.
The Ha’aretz article questions whether Hamas is seeking another military confrontation with Israel. While it would seem unlikely, as Gaza has not recovered from the damage inflicted during Protective Edge, two other scenarios are possible.
“The first is that a successful Hamas attack in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] will spur an Israeli response against the group in Gaza, which will lead the parties into a confrontation they don’t really want – in the same way that the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers…contributed to the escalation in mid-2014,” Ha’aretz explains.
In fact, just this past Sunday, the Shin Bet announced the busting of a Hamas terror cell in Judea in a joint operation with the IDF – the third in recent weeks.
The second scenario, Ha’aretz continues, is that an Israeli effort to locate and destroy the tunnels will lead the heads of Hamas’ military …to stage a preemptive strike, despite the heavy price the Strip is liable to pay.”
One way to protect Israeli citizens is in the area of technology, the article points out, quoting a senior security official who said that the cost, however, is outside the defense budget and would have to be supplemented by other means.
More than a year ago, Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned that relinquishing Israeli control of Judea and Samaria would expose Israel’s home front to infiltration tunnels leading into the heartland of Israel – a lesson, he said, that was learned from Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005..
If Hamas succeeds in carrying out a substantial attack from Judea and Samaria, that would be likely to influence what happens in the Gaza Strip and whether a full-scale war is on the horizon.