‘IDF sparing no effort to neutralize tunnel threat’

The Israel Defense Forces is sparing no effort to counter the threat posed by Hamas terror tunnels, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference on military-civilian relations, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in memory of late IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Eizenkot said the defense establishment is dedicating considerable resources to intelligence gathering efforts.

The threat of Hamas’ network of terror tunnels “has been a top priority for us since late 2013. Our enemies didn’t just forget about it after [Operation] Protective Edge, and they are investing considerable resources in it,” he said.

“We are looking at every possible countermeasure to neutralize [the threat]. We have advanced capabilities … but I can’t elaborate on everything we’re doing. Much of it is done far from the public eye.”

The military is “concentrating considerable engineering and intelligence efforts versus this threat. We possess the most advanced capabilities in the world, and we won’t be fooled by the lull in the south,” he said.

Commenting on the recent wave of Palestinian violence, Eizenkot said that defeating terrorism across Judea and Samaria will not necessarily require a wide-scale operation, as demanded by some ministers.

“We currently have six brigades — dozens of battalions and hundreds of companies — deployed across Judea and Samaria, fighting terrorism nightly,” he said. “Anyone talking about ‘Defensive Shield 2’ simply isn’t familiar with the reality on the ground in Judea and Samaria. The IDF has free operational hand.”

Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale IDF military campaign waged in 2002, targeting Palestinian terrorist infrastructure across Judea and Samaria.

According to Eizenkot, “While the situation is complex they [the terrorist] don’t have direction. Hamas and Islamic Jihad incite violence but they don’t have infrastructure on the ground [in Judea and Samaria].”

The Palestinian Authority’s incitement plays a key role in the surge in violence, Eizenkot said. “Interrogations all see one thing in common — terrorists saying they were incited by television, Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “These viral trends have a significant effect on Palestinian youth and it is compounded … by the difficult economic situation in Judea and Samaria.”