During the 50-day Operation Protective Edge conflict of 2014, 5,014 rockets were launched in total from the Gaza Strip, and the IDF destroyed 32 Hamas attack tunnels infiltrating Israeli territory. The terror tunnels were used by Hamas throughout the campaign as a way to abduct and kill Israeli civilians and soldiers, infiltrate communities, conceal weapons and conduct hostage situations.
The statement from cabinet officials comes in light of State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report released on Tuesday about the 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Over the past few years, Hamas has reportedly invested a significant amount of resources into rehabilitating its attack tunnels. The terrorist group is believed to have spent over £32 million of its military budget on tunnel construction, digging on average six miles of tunnels per calendar month. It has been highlighted that Hamas prioritised building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes.
Israel’s State Comptroller report, published on Tuesday, criticised Israeli military intelligence and the lack of clarity over operational plans for how to destroy and deal with the threat of attack tunnels, a factor which the report states may have led to unnecessary Israeli deaths during Operation Protective Edge.
Senior Israeli military and defence officials revealed at the beginning of February that Hamas had successfully restored its military strength to pre-2014 levels, including rocket arsenal, military infrastructure and attack tunnels.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned: “Hamas and the rest of the groups in Gaza have not abandoned their desire to destroy Israel and to harm us…they know that the balance of power is not in their favour and if they act against us, they will pay a very heavy price”.
In September 2016, Israel began constructing a £426.3 million underground barrier along its Gaza border in order to prevent further Hamas tunnels breaching Israeli territory.