The Israel Air Force on Saturday evening destroyed a Hamas offensive tunnel in advanced stages of building mere meters from the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.
The tunnel, which Hamas dug in the security parameter, originated in Beit Hanun and stretched over a kilometer, and was intended to reach Israeli communities, such as Kibbutz Erez.
According to the IDF, it was the first neutralized tunnel that did not cross into Israeli territory. Furthermore, while the most recent tunnel was destroyed by air strikes, previous tunnels were destroyed by flooding, to prevent Hamas from ever using them again.
The tunnel was destroyed following weeks of surveillance. It was the ninth tunnel to be located with advanced technology, which pinpointed its exact location, as part of Israel’s commitment to destroy all underground terrorist infrastructure.
Israel’s military has been investing extensive effort in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza, and has been building an innovative underground barrier across the entire border with the Hamas-run enclave. Construction of the barrier is expected to cost more than NIS 3 billion and take two years to complete.
The IDF said that both the tunnel near Erez, and the attack tunnel that Hamas dug under the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, which was “neutralized” by the IDF in January, were built underneath humanitarian crossings toward Israel.
“The terrorist tunnels prove the Hamas terrorist organization’s cynicism toward the residents of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.
“The Hamas terrorist organization continues to invest its resources in constructing terrorist 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 proves that it endangers its own civilians. Hamas is killing the Gaza Strip.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted that Israel would not buy Hamas’s “bluff” of a long-term armistice, adding that the terrorist group has been building terrorist tunnels for years.
“We’ll continue, as we did this evening, to go after terrorist infrastructures. The only formula that can be taken into consideration is demilitarization in return for rehabilitation,” he said.
Over the last six weeks, protests along the Gaza border have seen dozens of Palestinians attempt to destroy or cross the fence into Israel.
Due to planned protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the commemoration of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation on “Nakba Day,” the IDF will be bringing in three brigades to bolster troops in those areas. In addition, in the coming weeks, all regular training sessions will be put on hold.
The IDF has warned Palestinian civilians against approaching the security fence during the events planned for May 14 and 15.