A senior source in the IDF's Southern Command says the IDF was not surprised by the Hamas tunnel network, and seeks to dispel the widely held notion that the flareup in fighting in Gaza was an unintended result of the large-scale arrests of Hamas terrorists carried out by the IDF after the abduction and murder of three yeshiva boys.
Hamas began preparations for the “July War,” as he put it, in February of this year, and the date of July 15 was set for its launching four months ahead of time.
Contrary to most reports, the officer says that the tunnel threat was something “everyone” knew about, both inside and outside the military. However, he explained, “on a national level, no one wanted to hear about the tunnel issue.”
In February, he added, Hamas tripled the pace of the tunnel digging, especially in the southern Gaza Strip, and the IDF knew this. The tunnel diggers had previously worked one eight-hour shift per day, and began working three eight-hour shifts, around the clock.
"We watched them, we heard the work being done and we saw it advancing at a pace of 150 meters (500 feet) per month,” said the the senior officer, who added that the IDF prepared for a scenario in which dozens of terrorists would emerge from a tunnel shaft and attack communities or IDF forces.
"We put a company of soldiers in each community, we reinforced the units and we took down outposts so as not to endanger soldiers. We were ready for any situation and the fact is that in the infiltration near Sufa two weeks ago, the IDF was prepared, it stopped the vehicles that were on the route and attacked the terrorists from different angles.”
"Hamas, which built all of its expectations on the tunnels for four years, has some residual ability left and we will neutralize that, too, in the coming days,” he added. As he looked at the fields next to the border fence, he said: “No field was damaged here. We take the agriculturalists in our tanks to open the irrigation sprinklers, just so the field can continue to give fruit.”