Hamas is digging attack tunnels as part of its efforts to create a terrorism infrastructure against Israel for future attacks, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday, adding that Israel is concerned by the threat and is acting to counter it.

Speaking at the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, where he was visiting IDF soldiers wounded when a Hamas tunnel bomb went off during an army demolition mission over the weekend.



Ya’alon added that Israel views Hamas as the sovereign entity in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the one digging tunnels and controlling Gaza,” Ya’alon said. “We say again: Quiet will be met with quiet. All provocations will be met with a firm response by us. We’ll continue to act as we’ve acted until now.”

Ya’alon added that there is a connection between events in Gaza in recent days and Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians.

“Hamas is certainly deterred and that’s why it is maintaining quiet, even after this operation. But it is preparing itself for the moment it decides to renew violence and an escalation,” he warned.

These preparations include a local production program to manufacture arms, since Hamas is unable to smuggle in weapons from Sinai due to Egyptian counter-terrorism activities and Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels, Ya’alon said.

“Other organizations are also manufacturing [weapons] by themselves and the tunnels are part of these future preparations,” Ya’alon said. “When the tunnels will be ready, Hamas will attack us, that’s why we’re acting to thwart all of the intentions,” he added.

Ya’alon didn’t comment directly on reports that Israel struck a facility housing missiles destined for Hezbollah in Syria last week, but stated: “We’re not intervening in the bloody civil war and we are continuing to stress the same red lines that are known. We talk about them publicly too.

Not to allow them to transfer weapons from Syria to hostile elements, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon. Not to transfer chemical weapons to those same hostile elements, not to break the quiet on the Golan Heights, not to violate our sovereignty.”

Hamas is digging tunnels, Ya’alon said, because it is facing great difficulties in carrying out terror attacks on Israel due to the IDF’s strong defense system around the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s rockets are intercepted by Iron Dome and the terror regime pays a heavy price after firing its rockets, he argued.

“Hence, it is going underground.”

On Friday, the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman, visited the soldiers in the hospital and warned Hamas that any attack on Israel would be met by a “painful response.”

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