Did Israel Avert a Hamas Massacre? – Adam Ciralsky (Vanity Fair)
(dailyalert.org, Oct. 22, 2014)
Israeli intelligence officials agreed to share the backstory of how earlier this year they may have narrowly averted their nation’s own 9/11. The plan of attack (as pieced together by defense and security professionals through electronic intercepts, informants, interrogations of Hamas operatives, as well as computers and satellite imagery obtained from Hamas compounds during the war) was chilling: a surprise assault in which scores of heavily armed Hamas insurgents were set to emerge from more than a dozen cross-border tunnels and proceed to kill as many Israelis as possible.
Hamas created a secret commando unit, called Nukhba, and trained its men to fight and maneuver through the tunnels on foot and on small motorcycles. According to an official in the Israel Security Agency, which has been interrogating Hamas members who were captured during the fighting, the Nukhba fighters “were an elite force…[trained] to execute strategic terrorist attacks….[They would be] heavily armed: RPGs, Kalashnikovs, M-16s, hand grenades, and night-vision equipment.” To maximize the element of surprise, they would wear IDF uniforms.
A year ago, workers at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, which sits on the border with Gaza, heard digging underground and called in the IDF, which discovered a massive tunnel located 50 feet below the surface. It ran a mile and a half from the village of Abbasan Al-Saghira, in Gaza. IDF Captain Daniel explained, “They had a specific plan: 20 to 30 terrorists would emerge from the opening of the tunnel and attack the residents of Ein Hashlosha.” After the tunnel’s discovery, Israel halted the transfer of construction materials into Gaza. Last March, another tunnel was uncovered, penetrating three times farther into Israel.
“Hamas had a plan,” says Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner, summarizing on the record what six senior intelligence officials would describe on background. “A simultaneous, coordinated, surprise attack within Israel. They planned to send 200 terrorists armed to the teeth toward civilian populations. This was going to be a coordinated attack. The concept of operations involved 14 offensive tunnels into Israel. With at least 10 men in each tunnel, they would infiltrate and inflict mass casualties.”
As a senior military intelligence official explained, the anticipated attack was designed with two purposes: “First, get in and massacre people in a village. Pull off something they could show on television. Second, the ability to kidnap soldiers and civilians using the tunnels would give them a great bargaining chip.”
On July 7, Israeli jets bombed a tunnel that began in Rafah, in Gaza, and exited near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, killing seven members of Hamas. Highly placed government sources say they feared these operatives were the first wave. “We expected the mass attack in July,” a senior military intelligence official explains. The next day, all hell broke loose, with Hamas firing some 150 rockets. Over the next 10 days, Hamas would send some 1,500 more.
All told, Israeli military and intelligence sources say that they found and destroyed 32 tunnels within Gaza, 14 of which crossed into Israel, and believe that they managed to stave off a mass terror attack. Still, Hamas fighters used the underground network to emerge inside Israel and pull off several attacks that claimed the lives of 11 IDF soldiers.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)