Hamas is “fully capable of initiating an attack” inside Israel through one of its tunnels, veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.
The call, which was arranged by The Israel Project (which publishes The Tower), took place shortly after Israel’s State Comptroller released a report criticizing the government’s conduct during the summer 2014 war against Hamas.
The Israel Defense Forces “should not be praised” for its performance during the war, Harel stated, but at the same time, “more than any other Israeli organization, it was willing to deal with the failure very quickly.” He noted that much of the report’s criticism of the army was derived from the army’s own investigations into the war, which were conducted later in 2014.
Since then, the IDF has bought new weapons systems to deal with the tunnel threat and has tripled the size of the engineering unit. Harel called these changes an “improvement,” and stressed that the IDF has “managed to do both A) admit the actual problem that they face quite quickly, and B) deal with not perhaps a full-scale solution to the tunnel problem, but they’re much more equipped to face that challenge than they were in July 2014.”
Though the report was critical of the government’s readiness for the conflict, “I don’t think it’s an urgent matter to most Israelis,” Harel stated, although he also predicted that Israeli politicians would find ways to use the report to their advantage in future elections.
Harel stated that Hamas, which has rebuilt its tunnel network since the war, is now “fully capable of initiating an attack through such a tunnel and sending, for instance, a few dozens of armed fighters inside a tunnel underneath the Israeli border and initiating some kind of a surprise attack—either on a kibbutz on the border or military outpost, or something like that.” The terror group is also possibly capable of launching “a simultaneous attack in four or five places at the same time, something that they could not do at 2014.”
Israel believes that it can detect such an attack attempt in advance, as it did in 2014. Harel recalled  that Israel’s initial strike into Gaza during the 2014 war was believed to have prevented a prospective tunnel attack.
The two most likely factors leading to an escalation, according to Harel, would be an effort by Hamas to deflect criticism for its failure to provide critical infrastructure for Gaza, or an increase in rocket fire into Israel by one or more of the non-Hamas Islamist groups in Gaza.
A complete recording of the call is embedded below.http://www.thetower.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Conf-Call-Amos-Harel-28.2.17.mp3 
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]