Calling a Hamas-built makeshift passage from Gaza to the Mediterranean Sea a “naval terror tunnel” is a stretch, considering that it was no more than a hundred feet into the sea and not too deep. And unlike the overland tunnels, this one did not reach Israeli territory.
This pipe, as it should aptly be called, was designed to give Hamas a path that would be undetected by Israel. The operational rationale behind this project was very simple: to create a land-to-sea path for Hamas commandos that would take them from beneath their training facility to the depth of the sea, and then to a target of their choice: Israel’s gas-drilling facilities, Israeli Navy vessels or Israeli beaches.
That Israel discovered this pipe underscores its intelligence reach. The effort launched by the Israel Defense Forces after the 2014 Gaza war has borne fruit—first by detecting overland tunnels, and now this. Although in the latest discovery, Israel didn’t have to employ its latest technological innovations, the method was similar: pinpointed intelligence followed by airstrikes. This has proven to be an effective means of destroying tunnels.
But Israel must not bask in its success. As someone once said before, intelligence only tells you what you know; it doesn’t tell you anything about what you don’t know. One of the insights gleaned from this latest discovery is that Hamas is determined to find Israel’s soft spots. As far as it is concerned, the maritime platform has great potential.
That is why Hams is investing heavily in training naval commandos and developing a modus operandi that would challenge Israel. For this reason, the IDF has recently decided to use its overland anti-tunnel technology against maritime tunnels as well. This is aimed at protecting both Israeli beachgoers and the country’s strategic maritime installations.
But tactical successes and surgical strikes can only go so far. The IDF has been a great contractor for calm on a tactical level, but if we want to find a strategic solution, we have to undergo a paradigm shift. The events of the past several weeks have shown that Hamas is in dire straits. Now is an opportune moment to try to extract concessions that would herald a long period of calm in the south.
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.