It has been cleared for publication that Hamas's armed wing planned a large-scale abduction of residents from the community of Kerem Shalom in the first week of Operation Protective Edge last summer, Army Radio reported.
The terror organization planned to abduct dozens of residents and conduct negotiations for the release of terror prisoners in exchange for them.
The green light for carrying out the plan was never given, however, because Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal feared that such an operation would have devastating consequences for Hamas in Gaza.
In a statement last August, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lent credence to reports that Hamas had planned a large-scale operation against Israeli civilians, in which its terrorists would have emerged simultaneously and in large numbers from numerous tunnels dug into Israel. The terrorists would then have been able to carry out a large scale massacre of civilians, and to abduct other civilians back into Gaza through the tunnels.
Netanyahu did not name Kerem Shalom as the intended target at the time, nor did he explain why the planned attack was not attempted.
The reports of a Hamas "Rosh Hashana" plan surfaced shortly after the start of the ground incursion into Gaza, and were said to have been based on confessions made by Hamas terrorists taken captive. Unverified reports claim the captives said that Hamas was timing the incursion for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
Netanyahu did not mention Rosh Hashana specifically but said that Operation Protective Edge “damaged a strategic array that Hamas put a huge effort into, for years. The ability that Hamas prepared in digging these tunnels would have enabled it to abduct and murder numerous citizens and IDF soldiers by a simultaneous attack from many tunnels that penetrate our territory."
How much did the IDF know?
IDF officials have claimed that the IDF knew about the terror tunnel threat when the operation began. However, had the IDF been fully aware of the extent of the threat, it undoubtedly would have mentioned the demolition of the tunnels as a major war aim from the outset. In reality, the initial stated aims related only to Hamas's rockets and did not mention the tunnels. The tunnels became a major goal only after Israel was repeatedly surprised by terrorist squads that emerged from tunnels and due to the dogged lobbyinh of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
The video showing 13 terrorists emerging from a tunnel near Sufa on July 17 sent shock waves through the Israeli public, which had never seen such a chilling sight or imagined it possible. The video of the incident was a major factor in prodding the government to decide on a ground offensive into Gaza, and guaranteed support from the public and media.
While the IDF claimed not to have been surprised by the penetration, the claim appears doubtful when one takes into account that the terrorists were not killed and reportedly escaped back into Gaza. The IDF video of the incident apparently edited out the time that elapsed between the last terrorist's re-entry into the tunnel, and the missile blast that hit the tunnel shaft entrance. There were no reports or photos of bodies of terrorists after the incident, and Hamas claimed that they all made it back to Gaza safely.