Upcoming report on Hamas raid raises tensions within IDF
The report of the committee investigating the Hamas raid against an Israel Defense Forces position near Kerem Shalom two weeks ago is due to be completed this morning and presented to Chief of Staff Dan Halutz in the next day or so.
Lieutenant Hanan Barak and First Sergeant Pavel Slutzker were killed in the attack, during which Corporal Gilad Shalit was wounded and kidnapped; he is now apparently being held in the Gaza Strip.
Tensions are mounting among officers at IDF Southern Command headquarters in advance of publication of the report by the committee, which is headed by Major General (res.) Giora Eiland. Committee members visited the scene of the attack four times, examined documents and interviewed people of all ranks who were involved.
According to some of the officers who testified before the committee or who were asked to assist in the investigation, the report will concentrate on the following:
a) The IDF perception of the border with the Gaza Strip during the months following the disengagement and particularly since the rise of Hamas to power. The view of the IDF reflected the ambiguous status of Gaza as an area that was not afflicted with full-blown terrorism, which required a serious military response - as in the case of the West Bank during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Nor was it seen as a fully fortified frontier of a hostile state. As a result, the IDF avoided general offensive operations beyond the border in Gaza to prevent attacks - as opposed to more the targeted responses against Qassam rocket crews.
b) Regarding intelligence about possible threats, ballistic weapons and kidnappings, the Shin Bet security service was not involved in the investigating committee and its cooperation with the IDF on this matter was partial. The Shin Bet considers the Eiland committee to be an internal IDF affair. It plans to examine its role in the debacle only after its personnel are freed from their current intelligence-gathering operations regarding Qassam rockets and the location of Gilad Shalit. The poor communication between the Shin Bet and the IDF may result in a "black hole" in the report of the Eiland committee.
c) The gap between the awareness of a threat and actual preparedness, is another problem that will be addressed in the report. There appears to be a gap between theoretical preparedness (at the command level) and the actual readiness of the troops on the ground. On this point, the reaction of the tank crew, whose members were killed or kidnapped, will be discussed, as will that of those in the guard tower and others, on the battalion and brigade levels.
d) The subject of tunnels as a means of attack by Palestinians will be examined in depth and new methods for dealing with them are likely to be rapidly implemented.
After the Eiland committee report is presented to the chief of staff it will also be made available to member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The subject of the tunnels will be discussed by a subcommittee dealing with defensive readiness that includes, among others, MK Yuval Steinitz, Matan Vilnai, and Ami Ayalon.