Israeli media reports say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon rejected a request by Jewish Home leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett that Israeli forces should strike the tunnel network being rebuilt in the Gaza Strip by Hamas.
A series of tunnel collapses over the past two weeks have strengthened Israeli fears that Hamas is successfully rebuilding the sophisticated network of tunnels which was a major feature of Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014, during which they were a launching pad for deadly attacks on Israelis. Hamas’s leader in Gaza Ismael Haniyeh recently confirmed that Hamas is reconstructing the tunnel network saying, “There are heroes east of Gaza City, digging the rocks and building tunnels.”
Channel Two correspondent Amit Segal reported last night, in details subsequently covered in multiple media outlets, that Bennett proposed to attack the underground tunnels, but was rebuffed by Netanyahu and Ya’alon. Netanyahu’s office responded with a veiled attack on Bennett, indicating that he had leaked details of a sensitive security cabinet meeting, accusing him of proposing unrealistic security options for political gain. A statement said, “We do not discuss meetings of the security cabinet in general and operational plans of the IDF in particular,” adding “All the ministers should show responsibility and not try to rustle up votes in superficial political background briefings, which do not reflect the deep and responsible discussions in the cabinet.”
An unnamed source close to Ya’alon was equally robust, telling Israel Radio that cabinet ministers must stop making “childish, uninhibited and irresponsible remarks, while deceiving the public. This phenomenon of ministers willing to drag the country to war out of cynical political motives, simply jeopardizes Israel’s security.”
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who oversees Israel’s government activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip crossings yesterday told the Saudi-based Elaph news site that Hamas is smuggling ISIS-affiliated terrorists into the Gaza Strip via tunnels from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for medical treatment in Khan Younis’s Nasser Hospital.