Gaza tunnels
Palestinian fighters from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades stand inside an underground tunnel in Gaza August 18. (photo credit:REUTERS)


Amid Hamas reports of tunnel collapses killing its members and complaints of underground construction noises from residents in southern Israeli communities in the Gaza periphery, cabinet ministers have been embroiled in a dispute regarding what Israel should do in the face of Hamas attack tunnels that are being reconstructed in Gaza, according to a Channel 2 report Monday.

According to the report, the discord involves Education Minister Naftali Bennett calling for immediate action while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon oppose such a move that could stir up further contention in the government.

In one closed-door discussion in recent weeks on the Gaza tunnel threat, Bennett reportedly suggested that Israel not hesitate on initiating action against the tunnels Hamas is digging toward Israel, warning against more serious consequences in the future.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon, on the other hand, appear to remain opposed to swift action on the matter.

The Channel 2 report noted that Bennett’s proposition was reminiscent of opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s call last week to to stop hesitating and provide a serious and public response to the matter.

Ya’alon, who last week asserted that no Gazan attack tunnel have so far reached Israeli territory, blasted Herzog for accusing the government of inaction on the rebuilding by Palestinian terrorists of infiltration tunnels – the likes of which the IDF destroyed in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

The opposing positions on the tunnel issue reflect an ongoing controversy among Israeli leaders on the desired time line on operating against the Hamas infrastructure, the report added.

Channel 2 noted that Bennett’s office refused to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office said it does not comment on cabinet discussions in general and on the IDF’s operational plans in particular.

While the premier has refrained from ordering imminent action, he has warned that Israel will respond more forcefully than it did during the 2014 war against Hamas if it is attacked from the Gaza Strip’s terror tunnels.

“I hope we do not need to do this, but our defensive and offensive capabilities are developing rapidly, and I do not suggest that anyone test us,” Netanyahu said last Sunday.

On Thursday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira delivered a draft report to Netanyahu and top defense officials that charged there were “grave deficiencies” in preparedness for the Hamas attack-tunnel threat that presaged the 2014 Gaza war.

The criticism of how the issue was handled is part of a wider review of war-making decisions before and during Operation Protective Edge. The review started shortly after the 50-day conflict ended with a cease-fire in September 2014.

Since July 2014, the IDF has been accused of being unprepared for the scope of the tunnel threat.

The report followed the collapse of a Hamas attack tunnel in Gaza Zeitoun area on Wednesday, the third such incident in the past few weeks.

In January, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said that the Palestinian terrorist group will never stop digging tunnels and upgrading rockets in preparation for any possible confrontation with Israel.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post