Jean Pierre Braun

Haven’t we learned anything from October 7?

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Back in 2013, residents of northern Israel began alerting the authorities to the “non-stop noises” they were hearing deep underground beneath their feet. They suspected then that enemies from the north (Hezbollah or others) were digging tunnels which, reaching far into Israeli territory, would enable them to invade their farms and villages. Tzahal confirmed the existence of such tunnels in 2014. The mission to destroy them took place during the winter of 2018 / 2019. It was called Operation Northern Shield. Six tunnels were identified during this operation. At the end, the IDF claimed to have destroyed some of them “by explosion”, while the others were simply sealed. An article published in May 2019 in Times of Israel revealed that the 6th and last tunnel discovered was in fact 80 meters deep, 1 kilometer long and penetrated almost 80 meters inside Israeli territory. Excavated in very hard rock, it was estimated that this tunnel had taken several years to dig and construct: inside, the ventilation, electricity and communication installations were very extensive, suggesting that it could have been exploited offensively by a large, heavily armed force. At the time, Tzahal declared that the aim of these tunnels was to “kill Israeli families”.

The importance of the Hamas tunnels in the October 7th pogrom and the ensuing war (which continues to this day) cannot be underestimated: this incredible network of hundreds of kilometers of underground passageways enabled thousands of terrorists, with their vehicles and weapons, to be rapidly and simultaneously deployed, to withdraw in complete safety, at least for a while, and to store vast quantities of weapons, ammunition and, in general, everything they needed to live underground. Through this tightly interconnected network, the terrorists were able to move around in the hope of surprising the Israeli troops. But above all, they used these tunnels to hold captive the hostages kidnapped on October 7 – men and women of all ages, children and babies – in unbearable and monstrous conditions. In these tunnels, Hamas had a feeling of total impunity, knowing that Tzahal would not attack them with the energy required for fear of predictably dramatic consequences on the hostages.

In January 2024, in articles appearing in both Globes and Times of Israel, a new estimate was put forward: Hezbollah’s network of tunnels stretched for at least 45 kilometers, some of these underground routes were large enough for large trucks to go through. A few weeks later, the New York Times estimated the total length of Hezbollah’s tunnel network at between 560 and 720 kilometers, with a minimum of 5,700 entry/exit points. Such a network, dug into very hard rock, could not have been built without outside help. While most observers point the finger at Iran, Israel’s “Alma” research center claims that North Korea was actively involved in the construction of this gigantic network. IDF experts believe that the dimensions of these tunnels are designed to allow the passage of Mercedes 6X6 trucks, which serve as transport and launch pads for Iran’s Fateh 110 missiles. These solid-fuel missiles, 9 meters long and weighing 3,500 kilos, fly at Mach 3, have a range of 300 to 400 kilometers (meaning they can reach almost all Israeli territory), carry an explosive charge of 500 to 600 kilos, and are highly accurate thanks to a sophisticated guidance system. It is more than likely that many of these trucks and missiles are already positioned in these tunnels.

There can be no doubt that the terrorists have learned the lessons of October 7: the strategy that yielded the most dramatic return for Hamas was hostage-taking, specifically of civilians of all ages, whole families and very young children. This is, of course, in total violation of all international laws and conventions. But this monstrous behavior has had a paralyzing effect on Israeli decision-makers of all stripes. We have not been able to wage the war we should have, we have sacrificed the lives of our dear soldiers, we have taken the necessary time and precautions, and we still haven’t freed those precious hostages who are so dear to us.

I have total, unconditional, unlimited confidence in the Israeli armed forces, in our secret services and in our police and border forces. If the country’s leaders, the members of the government and the war council give them the right instructions, Tsahal will do its job without failing. Even though Hezbollah’s Iranian arsenal makes me nervous, I know that בע”ה Tsahal will win any military confrontation. On the other hand, I’m scared to death that Hezbollah will use these tunnels, or the ones we haven’t found yet, to kidnap civilians, and take them captive deep underground in this tentacular network.

Let us ask ourselves: why hasn’t Hezbollah started an open war yesterday, today? It may be that they are waiting for an opportunity to invade northern Israel, even in a limited fashion, as long as they could kidnap Israeli civilian hostages and bring them back into the Lebanese underground. They could then declare war on their terms, knowing that our room for maneuver would be very limited.

Have we learned nothing from October 7, 2023?

If there’s one lesson to be learned, and never forgotten, it’s that Israel can’t afford another hostage-taking crisis like the one that happened almost five months ago. Israeli society as a whole would be shaken, confidence in our leadership would be lost for a long time to come, and the very foundations of Zionism would be affected. Beyond all other considerations, another hostage-taking must be avoided at all costs.

So, if we can do so without risking the lives of Israeli civilians, and while minimizing our military risks, we must absolutely and without delay destroy Hezbollah’s network of tunnels. It’s likely that we’ll destroy a large number of Iranian trucks and missiles at the same time, and that would be an excellent thing. Is there a risk of an earthquake? It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Is there a risk of collapse in the communities above these tunnels? maybe. But, without hesitation, the blame for these possible consequences must be laid at Hezbollah’s door, and Hezbollah’s alone. Israel is merely exercising its inalienable right to defend itself.

With the utmost deference, I address this message to Israel’s political and military leaders, members of the government and the war committee. You must take the necessary decision and instruct Tzahal to eliminate the conditions that make another hostage-taking possible; Hezbollah’s network of tunnels cannot continue to exist, even for one more day. It must be destroyed urgently. The survival of our beloved country depends on this.

About the Author
Jean Pierre Braun is a retired Silicon Valley CEO now living in Jerusalem. Born in Paris, Jean Pierre immigrated to the USA after completing its Electrical Engineering degree in France. Besides being a serial entrepreneur, Jean Pierre was also the founder of a unique, very successful Silicon Valley Synagogue, and upon his return to France became Vice President of a local CRIF branch, and the President of the Rachi community in Grenoble. A father of 3 and grandfather of 10 ב'ה, Jean Pierre and his wife Annie made Aliyah in 2016.
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