The Israeli military said Sunday it destroyed a border-crossing attack tunnel built by the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas, the third in recent months, that stretched from the Gaza Strip through Israel and into Egypt, the AP reported Sunday.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel ran underneath the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Gaza’s main point of entry for humanitarian aid, and denied claims made by Hamas that it was a smuggling tunnel. “It was a terror tunnel designed to strike strategic Israel assets,” he observed.
“We completed the destruction of a third terror tunnel,” he told reporters early Sunday morning. “We understand this tunnel belongs to Hamas,” Conricus added, saying the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset.”
The half-mile (900-meter) tunnel extended 200 yards (180 meters) into Israeli territory and hundreds of yards into Egypt. This would have allowed terrorists to use northern Sinai as a staging ground for attacks on Israel.
The army spokesperson credited the discovery and destruction of the tunnel to a combination of “cutting-edge” technology and intelligence. Conricus said the military had been monitoring its construction for some time and an imminent attack on Israelis was possible.
“(We) now hold a method, an organized system to destroy terror tunnels dug into Israel,” he said. “This is a key mission for us and our intention is to allow quiet and to deter Hamas so we can continue to build the obstacle.”
Sunday’s operation marked the third such tunnel Israel has destroyed over the past three months alone. On October 30, the army blew up an attack tunnel that belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. On December 10, the military demolished a second tunnel, this one controlled by Hamas, the group in complete political and military control of Gaza.
Speaking from India, where he is on an official state visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation, saying “We are systematically destroying Hamas’ and Islamic Jihad’s tunnel infrastructure. Let them not mess with us.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the tunnel’s construction was a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty and expressed the hope that Israel would destroy all remaining Hamas tunnels by the end of 2018. “The message to Gaza’s leadership and residents is clear — invest in the sanctity of life and not these burial tunnels,” he said.
Speaking in Arabic, the IDF’s coordinator for the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, told the U.S.-based Al-Hurra satellite television station, that “the Israeli genius, along with the Jewish brain, have come up with a solution” to the tunnels. He added: “Just like there’s ‘Iron Dome’ for the air, there’s a technological umbrella of steel underground.”
[Photo: Haaretz.com / YouTube ]