Tunnels Add to Negev Residents' Concerns

Terrorist tunnels? Jews living near Gaza say they're "overwhelmed" and can't deal with yet another threat. A Kassam rocket had just hit nearby.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:47 PM

"We are faced with an entire array of threats," a resident of one of the kibbutzim in the area told Arutz-7, "and we simply don't have the strength to deal specifically with the fear of underground tunnels. We are, unfortunately, acting somewhat like ostriches, with our heads in the sand."

A Kassam rocket was fired towards Kibbutz Nir-Am around noon today, causing no casualties or damage. Two other Kassams were fired towards Ashkelon earlier today, sending one person into shock.

General Security Service (Shabak) chief Yuval Diskin told reporters this week that Israel is aware of "more than ten" tunnels being dug from Gaza towards Israeli communities. The objective is not only to smuggle terrorists out of Gaza into Israel, but also possibly to detonate explosives under the towns.

Just eight months ago, a tunnel of this type was used by eight Hamas terrorists to crawl under and into an army base near the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Gaza and Israel. The three-pronged attack included the blowing-up of an empty IDF armed personnel carrier, shooting at soldiers, and the killing of two tank crewmen and the kidnapping of a third - Gilad [ben Aviva] Shalit. Shalit is still being held, and his condition and whereabouts are unknown.

Two years ago, in December 2004, two suicide terrorists from Gaza detonated over a ton explosives in an underground tunnel (dug for months beforehand), killing five IDF Bedouin Patrol Battalion soldiers.

"We just had a Kassam fall seven minutes ago," the kibbutz member said, "and we can't deal with yet another type of threat. We have Kassams, we have the fear of terrorist infiltration, we have the fear of tunnels, and we have the fear of even more powerful Kassams they have been talking about... We are constantly involved in warning about these threats."

In response to a question, he said that he had not heard sounds of tunnel-building such as hammer blows underground, as had been reported in at least one other community. "We haven't reached that stage yet," he said.

A woman living in the kibbutz where the sounds were reported told Arutz-7, "I personally am not that bothered, as the army was here and checked and found nothing."

The spokesperson of another local kibbutz told Arutz-7, "We are relying on the army, which has a base right here."

MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Arutz-7, "The army's ability to [find the tunnels] exists, using various means, but it is limited... The main way to deal with the various threats coming from Gaza is simply by carrying out Operation Defensive Shield II - to fully take over those areas in Gaza for a number of weeks and wipe out the terrorist infrastructures. If we don't do that, within a year or two we will face major rockets threats on Ashdod and even beyond."

Sderot Schools and Supreme Court
Meanwhile, government representatives were called upon to explain, at a Supreme Court hearing, the policies regarding protection in educational institutions in Sderot and environs. Specifically, they were asked why pupils in fourth grade and older do not study in protected classrooms, but must rather run to a shelter upon hearing the "Color Red" warning siren.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinish said that the 15-second advance notice provided by the warning system before a rocket crashes down is simply not enough for children to run to a shelter.

The government was also asked why not all schools in Sderot and environs have yet been reinforced against rockets. The government says that protection has been built for most of the schools.