The long-awaited State Comptroller’s Report on the 2014 war against Hamas was officially released Tuesday afternoon, and according to the report, the IDF was fundamentally “not prepared” to deal with aspects of the war – especially the Hamas terror tunnels. Only half of the tunnels were demolished during the war and its aftermath, and the prime minister, the defense minister, and top IDF generals withheld information from government ministers, who were not aware of the full force of the threats, according to the report.
The army’s unpreparedness displayed itself in several ways, the report said. The army’s objectives from the start of Operation Protective Edge were unclear, and intelligence about Hamas’s activities was “flawed.” The objectives presented ranged from a weakening of Hamas to an all-out retaking of Gaza – and according to the report, army brass disagreed on what to do, even as the war raged.
Part of the problem in dealing with the tunnels was actually the IDF’s, the report said. The army and the air force seemed at times to be at cross-purposes; soldiers could not find the entrance to tunnels that the air force had bombed, and thus were unable to demolish them. PM Binyamin Netanyahu was fully aware of the issues revolving around the tunnels, according to the report. “The prime minister was well aware of the terror threat and classified it as a strategic threat, and held many discussions about it outside the confines of government meetings,” it said.
“He should have presented to ministers information about the tunnel threat in a definitive manner. His intention may not have been to hide the data from them, but the final result was that ministers were kept in the dark.” Also kept out of Cabinet discussions were Hamas’s efforts to kidnap soldiers – and as a result, no government decisions were made on how to deal with those as well.
While the report does not assign blame to any specific party, it does criticize the defense minister – at the time Moshe Yaalon – for failing to lead against the threats. Many of the issues reviewed in the report – the disorganization of the army, the backbiting between top officials, and the political overreaching of top generals – could have been tamped down had former-Minister Yaalon been more decisive in deciding how to deal with the war. “The defense minister and those leading it cannot be exempted from the way the IDF conducted the war,” the report adds.
Operation Protective Edge was the culmination of a chain of events in the summer of 2014 that began on June 12 when Hamas terrorists kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers, Hy”d.
Israel arrested several hundred Hamas members, leading the group to fire dozens of rockets into Israel from its Gaza stronghold. The bodies of the missing teens were discovered on June 30, and with rocket fire intensifying, Israel launched its Gaza assault on July 7.
The Iron Dome defense system proved largely effective in knocking down incoming projectiles fired by Hamas. But Hamas terrorists managed to infiltrate through tunnels into Israeli territory several times, killing at least 11 soldiers. Some 10 days into the fighting, Israeli ground forces moved into Gaza with the stated aim of destroying the tunnels.
Although Israel claimed to have destroyed 32 tunnels during the fighting, the report found numerous flaws in the operation. Among its findings: Only half of the tunnels were completely destroyed.
Since the war, Israel has discovered several other tunnels and destroyed them. The IDF claims it has improved its technology to detect tunnel activity, and the Defense Ministry has begun construction of a massive underground wall meant to block the tunnels as well.
The IDF said it is studying the report and “implementing lessons learned.”