The IDF destroyed two Hamas tunnels late Saturday night, including one that crossed into Israeli territory, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced.
One tunnel that was identified by the army several weeks ago ran from Rafiah in the southern Gaza Strip into the Eshkol Regional Council inside Israel.
“The IDF foiled an attempt by the Hamas terrorist organization to rebuild an offensive terrorist tunnel in Rafiah in the southern Gaza Strip,” IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said. He added that the tunnel had not posed a threat to residents in the area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the army for destroying the tunnels, saying Israel will continue to act “resolutely” against any attempt to harm Israeli citizens by “systematically” destroying the terrorist tunnel infrastructure.
“The time has come for the international community to recognize that the aid money for Gaza gets buried underground,” he stated.
One tunnel was destroyed by flooding it with a material that prevents the passageway from being using again. That action was carried out from inside Israeli territory by the Southern Command.
“The IDF has acted in its territory and defended its citizens and sovereignty, and while there is no intention to change the security situation, we are ready and prepared for many scenarios,” Netanyahu said.
The second underground tunnel, in the Zeitoun area of the Gaza Strip, was destroyed by an Israeli air strike on Saturday night.
Several other Hamas targets were also destroyed in retaliation for the placement of explosive devices on the border fence earlier in the day.
“It doesn’t matter who placed the IED on the fence,” Manelis said, “Hamas is responsible for everything that goes on in the Strip. Israel will not allow Hamas to use the Gaza fence as a staging ground for attacks.”
“Hamas invests enormous resources in building underground terror tunnels instead of investing in the Gaza Strip and providing welfare to its residents. The attempt to rebuild the tunnel shows that Hamas finds it difficult to accept the collapse of the tunnel project and continues to waste the money needed for Gaza residents to breathe,” Manelis stated.
The work by the military to locate and destroy terrorist tunnels has “intensified” in the past six months, Manelis continued, adding this was the fourth time a tunnel was destroyed that infiltrated into Israeli territory. Several other underground targets have also been destroyed inside in the Strip.
“We again received proof of the IDF’s effectiveness in thwarting the tunnel threat,” said Gadi Yarkoni, the head of Eshkol Regional Council. “The tunnel was located in time and did not pose a threat to our settlements. At the same time, its very existence is reminiscent of the fragile security reality in Eshkol, and we must be ready at any time for an emergency.”
In February, the army destroyed another tunnel in the same area which crossed under the Kerem Shalom crossing that borders the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula. Israel denied claims that the tunnel was used for smuggling, asserting Hamas intended to use it to bring terrorists and weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip for a possible future combined attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing from the Egyptian side.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the incident by saying Israel consistently destroys one Hamas tunnel after another due to quality intelligence and ground-breaking technology.
“Those who thought they could hurt us by burrowing underground ran into an iron wall. Hamas has invested millions in their tunnel building project and now they are drowning in sand. I recommend Hamas invest its money into the welfare of its citizens because by the end of this year, its tunnel warfare project will be destroyed.”
During the 2014 war, several soldiers were killed by Hamas terrorists who emerged from tunnels dug into Israel by the group, surprising the IDF and leaving residents of border communities concerned over the possibility of tunnels beneath their homes. By the time of the last cease-fire, the IDF said it had destroyed 32 tunnels that crossed beneath the border.