TEL AVIV – Accusations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not deal with the threat of Hamas’ terror tunnels prior to the 2014 summer war in Gaza are baseless, his office said late Tuesday.
“Claims that Israel was unprepared to meet the tunnel threat are without foundation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Bayit Yehudi party head Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid relayed their concerns ahead of the release of a state comptroller’s report on Netanyahu’s handling of the cross-border tunnels dug by the Gaza-based terror group, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu did not brief the cabinet about the threat of tunnels prior to Operation Protective Edge, government sources who have seen the report alleged.
The PMO countered that the charges were “false” and that Netanyahu undertook a range of defense measures against the tunnel threat.
“From 11 November 2013 until 3 July 2014, the tunnel threat was presented, in its full severity, at nine separate Cabinet meetings. The protocols show this beyond all doubt,” the PMO said.
“Moreover, for six months prior to the operation, from 16 January 2013 until 9 July 2014, the Prime Minister convened six professional discussions on the issue of the tunnels,” it added.
“The Defense Minister, IDF Chief-of-Staff, GOC Southern Command, head of the IDF Engineering Branch, head of the IDF Technology Branch, and field commanders were among the participants in these meetings.
“At these discussions, Prime Minister Netanyahu directed that operational and technological solutions be advanced to meet the tunnels threat.
“On 3 July 2014, before the start of operations and two weeks before the ground incursion, the Prime Minister ordered the IDF to prepare for a ground incursion to neutralize the tunnels.
“It is regrettable that there are those who have misled the public on substantive security issues when the facts are unequivocal and well known to those who are distorting them,” the PMO said.
Underground tunnels utilized for the smuggling of Palestinian terrorists into Israel from Gaza existed well before the outbreak of the 50-day war in 2014.
In 2006, IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped by Palestinian militants who infiltrated Israel via an underground tunnel.