Tel Aviv Diary: Bracing for Hamas Tunnel Attacks

A Palestinian terorist from the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, in a tunnel in Gaza in this August 18, 2014 file photo. With Israeli Defense Forces using new technology to discover tunnels, the current concern among Israelis is that Hamas may launch attacks in the coming days, before all their tunnels are discovered, under the theory of “use it or lose it.” Mohammed Salem/reuters

By last week, there was a sense that the current wave of Palestinian violence may have played itself out.

While security personnel were quick to point out that it could be a false calm, stabbings were way down and the combined efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian security personnel seemed to be working.

That all changed in Jerusalem late on Monday afternoon when a bomb exploded on a bus. That and a second bus behind it immediately caught fire.

The bomb was apparently small, injuring 21 people while totally destroying the buses. The bus containing the bomb was almost completely empty.

To Israelis, the image of a bus bombing conjures up memories of the worse of the Second Intifadah (2001-2004), when a single terror attack sometimes took 30 or more lives at a time.

The hope, of course, is that this is an isolated incident; but hope springs eternal, and most Israelis know that things are likely to get worse in the coming weeks and months and not better. As Dahlia Scheindlin, a colleague in Tel Aviv, stated, if this continues, "this place will become all-out hell."

Monday evening's news comes on the heels of what can only be called mixed news from earlier in the day about the area around Gaza. On Monday, the army censor approved publication of the story saying that last week, using newly developed technology, the Israel Defense Forces had discovered a Hamas attack tunnel that had been dug from the Gaza Strip into Israel proper.

The discovery was confirmation of what most people, especially those who live along the Gaza, believe, that Hamas had never given up its quest to build tunnels into Israel.

The success of the new technology could be a game changer and deprive Hamas one of its few successful weapons—the ability to make a surprise attack into Israel.

The current concern is that Hamas may be tempted to launch an attack in the coming days, before all of their tunnels are discovered under the theory of "use it or lose it."

The next few weeks could be especially tense. Of course Monday's bus bombing might have been Hamas's response to the discovery of the tunnel, but it's still too early to tell.

In the meantime, the Israeli Cabinet held its first-ever meeting on the Golan Heights, which was captured from Syria in 1967.

The Heights were officially annexed to Israel in 1981 and the meeting was held to underscore the fact that Israel has no intention of ever ceding sovereignty of them. While negotiations have taken place over the years about returning the Heights, the Syrian Civil War has proven to many Israelis how dangerous that could be.

Meanwhile, not far from the meeting, close to the area in the Southern Golan where Israel, Jordan and Syria meet, heavy fighting has been going on between the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and the other opposition forces, as ISIS attempts to gain control of the area.

On Thursday, as President Obama meets in Saudi Arabia with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperative League, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Moscow, conferring with Soviet President Putin on Israeli concerns in Syria.

For a few days it looked like Israel might have the luxury to turn and deal with some pressing domestic issues, but it seems that external events continue to set the agenda.

Marc Schulman is the editor of