The air strike on the terror-tunnel was in retaliation for the arson and destruction at Kerem Shalom border crossing’s fuel and gas pipes, that serve the people of Gaza, but were set ablaze by Hamas’ ‘March of Return’ protestors.
The Israel Air Force on Saturday evening destroyed a Hamas offensive tunnel that was in advanced stages of building mere meters from the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.
The tunnel, which Hamas had dug in the security parameter, had originated in Beit Hanoun, stretched over a kilometer and was intended to reach Israeli communities such as the Erez Kibbutz.
It was the first neutralized tunnel which did not cross into Israeli territory, the IDF stressed. While this tunnel was destroyed by airstrikes, the other tunnels were destroyed by flooding them with material which prevents Hamas from ever using it again.
This tunnel, which was the ninth tunnel located by advanced technologies that pinpointed its exact location as part of the ongoing Israeli effort to destroy all underground terror infrastructure, was destroyed after weeks of being under surveillance.
Israel’s military has been investing extensive effort in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza and has been building a ground-breaking underground barrier across the entire border with the Hamas-run enclave. Construction of the barrier is expected to cost over 3 billion shekels and be completed within two years.
According to the army the tunnel under the Erez crossing (which is designed for humanitarian pedestrian use) was connected to the terror tunnel that was dug under the Kerem Shalom crossing that was neutralized by the IDF this past January.
“The terror tunnels prove the Hamas terrorist organization’s cynicism towards the residents of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.
“The Hamas terror organization continues to invest its resources in constructing terror tunnels and sabotaging humanitarian efforts offered by Israel and other countries for the people of Gaza instead of investing in the Gaza Strip and its peoples’ welfare,” it continued, adding that “the fact that Hamas dug a tunnel underneath the (Erez) crossing proved that it endangers its own civilians. Hamas is killing the Gaza Strip.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman posted on Twitter that Israel would not buy Hamas’ “bluff” of a long-term ‘hudna’ (armistice) and that the militant group has continued to build terror tunnels for years.
“We aren’t buying this bluff. We’ll continue, as we did this evening, to go after terror infrastructures. The only formula that can be taken into consideration is demilitarization in return for rehabilitation,” he said.
Over the last six weeks, protests on the Gaza border have seen dozens of Palestinians attempting to destroy or cross the fence into Israel. The IDF has claimed that many of those participating in such activities are involved with or operatives of Hamas.
Due to planned protests by Palestinians next week in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Nakba Day, the IDF will bring in three brigades to bolster troops in the Gaza and West Bank divisions. All regular training sessions in the coming week will also be paused.
The IDF has warned Palestinian civilians against approaching the security fence during events planned for May 14th and 15th, saying that the army will “continue operating with determination in the face of terror both above and below the ground,” in order to prevent harm to come to Israeli civilians or for Israeli sovereignty to be jeopardized.
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