In a weekend interview with Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, IDF Southern Command head General Sami Turgeman said that Hamas is back at it – attempting to dig tunnels into Israel.
While the IDF destroyed most, if not all, of the tunnels Hamas had dug into Israel in previous years during Operation Protective Edge, it appeared that the terror group was using the resources that are now pouring into Gaza to rebuild homes and businesses to instead rebuild its terror network, said Turgeman.
“We are keeping a close eye on Hamas,” Turgeman said. “It is clear that they have gone back to digging tunnels, and they apparently hope to reach at least the numbers they had before the war last summer.”
Although the destruction of the tunnel network was a major blow to Hamas, because it had poured so much money and energy into building it, the tunnels had proven themselves an effective weapon against Israel from terror group's point of view, Turgeman said, so it was decided that the network be rebuilt regardless of the cost – in money or, as is likely to happen, in further damage to Gaza when Israel is forced to once again bomb Gaza in order to prevent tunnel attacks.
Despite Hamas's continued enthusiasm attempts to destroy Israel, Operation Protective Edge was a success, Turgeman said.
“Hamas had many plans to attack soldiers and civilians in Israel. But we managed to neutralize those efforts.” Although Hamas has not been destroyed, the terror group did receive a bad blow, Turgeman added.
“I see a high level of bitterness in their recent communiqués,” he said. “They are very disappointed. They lost over 1,000 terrorists, their tunnel system was destroyed, and even with 4,500 rockets fired at Israel they were unable to cause any substantial damage to Israel.”
With that, Turgeman said, Israel did make some mistakes in the war. “I think most of us went into this mistakenly thinking that evacuating residents of the border towns would have been a victory for Hamas.”
It's likely, he said, that the IDF could have done a more effective job if the Gaza border towns had been evacuated of its civilians, as the army could have concentrated on the enemy without having to worry about protecting civilians. If a similar situation crops up in the future, “I would recommend temporarily evacuating residents of the border area.”