As Israel nears its 68th year of independence, Israelis can take pride in the fact that they have much to celebrate. Unemployment is low and standards of living are comparable to those of affluent Western nations. Israel’s citizens have transformed a semi-arid land into an oasis. Its innovative and resourceful people have turned the nation into a technology giant. Water shortages that plagued the nation during its formative years are now a thing of the past thanks to cost-effective desalinization plants and other innovative water technologies. Israel maintains a highly developed and modern infrastructure and its formidable military continuously ranks among the most powerful. Recent natural gas finds off Israel’s coast have instantly transformed the Jewish State into a major energy player with various nations eager to sign deals and form partnerships. When natural disasters strike distant countries, Israeli rescue and medical personnel are among the first on the scene and are world renowned for their efficiency and effectiveness.
It’s no wonder that in poll after poll, Israelis consistently rank among the happiest people in the world. Perhaps the greatest testament to Israel’s success is the growth of its population. In 1948, only 6% of world Jewry resided in Israel. Today, that figure has swelled to nearly 50%, a development not seen since the Second Temple Era, two-thousand years ago!
Despite these phenomenal achievements, Israelis still have to contend with menacing and malignant forces lurking just beyond their borders. Up until recently, attention was focused on the north in Lebanon where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group maintains a stockpile of 110,000 missiles, all aimed at Israel. With help from Iran, the Shia proxy group is also attempting to establish missile bases in Syria from where it could open a second front against Israel. Israel has thus far been successful in thwarting these nefarious efforts, striking out militarily when necessary and continues to remain vigilant.
Not to be outdone, Hamas, the terror entity that governs Gaza has significantly escalated tensions in the south. In the past few weeks, the genocidal Sunni group initiated several border provocations that demonstrate just how precarious the border situation is.
On April 15, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh while speaking at a rally announced, “Our message…is a message inked in blood. The rifle and the tunnel are our commitment…” Haniyeh’s belligerent bombast was likely for internal consumption but underscores attempts by the terror group to focus on tunnels as an offensive tool of warfare. During Israel’s 2014 summer offensive against Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces uncovered and destroyed nearly three-dozen terror tunnels, some of which extended deep into Israel. These tunnels were designed for ghoulish mega attacks aimed at killing and capturing as many civilians as possible and at least one tunnel was found lurking beneath an Israeli kindergarten.
Following the 2014 conflict, Hamas began rebuilding its tunnel network diverting cement and building materials earmarked for civilian use. But Israel invested heavily in technologies aimed at tunnel detection. Beginning this year, Hamas began experiencing a series of mysterious and devastating tunnel cave-ins. At least a dozen tunnels have reportedly collapsed, trapping and killing several Hamas operatives including senior commanders.
Deep paranoia immediately set in. Hamas accused Israel of employing a secret weapon that caused the cave-ins. Some Hamas operatives refused to re-enter existing tunnels for fear of additional Israeli induced cave-ins.
Whether Israel has such a device or not, Israel’s combat engineers have been working relentlessly to uncover the tunnels. The Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI equivalent, has been active in debriefing captured Hamas operatives with intimate knowledge of Hamas’ tunnel operations.
In mid-April, Israeli forces secured the capture of Mahmoud Atauna, a senior Hamas operative active in the tunnel business. He provided his interrogators with a treasure trove of information on Hamas operations and activities including those involving the terror tunnels. That same month, the Shin Bet scored another intelligence coup capturing another operative whom officials said provided “extensive information on Hamas activities to dig tunnels that are to be used for Hamas fighters to infiltrate Israeli areas.”
Israel’s anti-tunneling efforts have paid off. In recent weeks, the IDF has uncovered two well-constructed tunnels extending into Israel proper and buried several dozen meters below ground. Hamas terrorists watched helplessly from their posts as Israeli forces converged on their prized possessions, which had taken months, if not years, to construct. In an effort to distract the IDF, Hamas breached the ceasefire which had held since August 2014 and fired a number of mortar rounds. Israel responded with accurate tank fire and airstrikes. Hamas got the message and backed off.
The Hamas provocations demonstrate how volatile the situation is and how easily a localized border skirmish can escalate into full-fledged conflagration. But the terror tunnels pose a serious challenge that must be addressed and it appears that the Israelis are beginning to get the upper hand in the subterranean battle.
Since 2008, Israel has had to battle Hamas on three occasions. On each occasion, Hamas was thoroughly trounced and beaten. The routine is predictable. Hostilities begin with Hamas initiating rocket fire or some other terror attack against Israel’s civilian populace. It then hides behind its own civilian population when Israel inevitably retaliates. The Islamists and their useful idiot, radical leftist allies condemn Israel for using “disproportionate” force and call for “restraint.” Hamas then declares “victory.” Rinse and repeat.
This cycle is referred to by some Israeli analysts as mowing the lawn. Every so often, Hamas or Hezbollah forget about the thrashing they received at the hands of the Israeli army in years prior and embark upon another futile adventure. Israel is then forced to mow the lawn and cut them down to size. If Hamas continues to violate Israeli sovereignty with its reckless tunnel experiment, Israel may be required to once again, mow the lawn.