The IDF on Monday blew up a Hamas attack tunnel still under construction that had entered Israeli territory.
The “controlled explosion,” as the IDF called it, destroyed the tunnel, which began in Khan Yunis in Gaza and continued into Israel, ending only 2 kilometers from the border community of Kissufim.
Palestinian sources said nine terrorists were killed in the tunnel, including a senior commander of al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military arm. They reportedly weren’t inside the tunnel during the explosion, but were on the Palestinian side of the tunnel and were killed when they came to rescue others who were trapped.
The attack on the tunnel, conducted by the Southern Command, was achieved through several air strikes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman touted the blast as a show of Israel’s technological advancement.
“I told you many times that we are developing groundbreaking technology to deal with the tunnel threat,” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting. “Today, we detected a tunnel and destroyed it, and we will continue doing so... We will continue to protect Israel’s borders.”
Liberman called the achievement “a result of high operational capabilities and a significant technological breakthrough that allows us to better deal with the tunnel threat.”
“I think the message is clear to all,” Liberman said, “we will not tolerate breaches of Israeli sovereignty... This proves that, despite Palestinian unity, the Gaza Strip remains a terrorist kingdom and, for us, there is no doubt Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible.”
The defense minister added, however, that Israel is not interested in an escalation.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said locating “terrorism tunnels” is part of a wide defense effort carried out by the military since the end of Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day standoff between Israel and Hamas that took place in 2014.
The IDF deployed Iron Dome troops and ground forces in the South, should there be a response from Gaza, but the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stressed that Israel is not looking for further escalation.
According to media reports, Hamas convened Gaza factions on Monday night to assess further steps.
“This new Zionist crime is a dangerous escalation against our people and its resistance aimed at taking revenge against its steadfastness and unity and its desperate attempt to destroy efforts to restore Palestinian unity and maintain the state of division,” read a Hamas statement.
“We affirm that resisting the occupation in all its forms and by possessing its various tools is a natural and guaranteed right of our people,” it said.Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.