Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Monday warned Hamas against seeking a new confrontation with Israel after it was revealed that a tunnel crossing the Gaza border was found in Israeli territory.
"We have no illusion when it comes to Hamas's intentions. Even before Operation Protective Edge, during the operation, and of course, after it, we dedicated many efforts - technological, intelligence, and operational - to discovering tunnels from the Gaza Strip," he said.
Ya'alon added that throughout the years, Israel discovered "many tunnels," adding that "we are continuing to focus huge efforts toward that."
In tunnel detection missions, most of which are hidden from view, the best of the state of Israel's forces are involved, from the IDF, the Shin Bet, and defense industries."
Tunnel detection is at the top of the defense establishment's priorities, Ya'alon said.
In recent months, Hamas has suffered from the collapse of a number of tunnels, the defense minister noted, saying that "diggers were killed during their work. And now a tunnel has been detected. Nevertheless, we do not delude ourselves that Hamas will draw the lesson and stop dealing with this, and that it will turn to assisting and improving the fabric of life in the Gaza Strip, or tend to the welfare of residents there."
Israel is not seeking a confrontation, Ya'alon said, "but if Hamas tries to challenge the State of Israel, or disrupt the lives of Gaza border residents, it will be hit very hard. We will not tolerate such attempts." The defense minister called on southern residents living near the Strip to "continue with their daily routines," and urged the remainder of Israeli citizens to "visit the south of the country during the coming holiday."
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett also responded to the discovery, saying: "Like we warned, Hamas was not deterred from building itself up in the two years that have passed since Operation Protective Edge."
"Hamas defined tunnel-digging a 'national project,' with the goal of infiltrating into Israel," he said. "It's a national goal for them, and it's time we internalize that."
The minister continued, saying that Hamas strives to strike Israel with "a surprise multi-faceted attack - a sort of 'Yom Kippur' scenario of terror," which would weave in elements of infiltration, kidnapping, and murder.
"It is Israel's duty to restore a sense of security to citizens of the South, and prevent this from happening - at any price," Bennett said. "Israel can't count on the assumption that Hamas is deterred."
In addition, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman responded to the reports that a cross-border tunnel from Gaza to Israel was uncovered by the IDF.
"The recently uncovered tunnel is a hard hit to Israel - and further proof that the leadership of Netanyahu and Ya'alon enables Hamas to continue building up its resources and grow stronger, endangering the lives of citizens of the south and the security of Israel."
"This probably isn't the only cross-border tunnel that infiltrates into Israel," he added. "If our policy doesn't change, Hamas will continue digging and arming themselves - threatening our security."
Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, who formerly served as the head of the Eshkol Regional Council and is a resident of the Gaza border community of Nahal Oz, called on Israel to work to destroy such tunnels, while also advancing a diplomatic initiative on a parallel track.
"This tunnel must be destroyed immediately, we shouldn't wait, we should destroy every tunnel that enters Israel. To destroy every tunnel that we know they have started to build, just as we assassinate terror cells that are set to fire rockets into Israel."
Jelin said that Hamas must be stopped from digging tunnels, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take action. "Mr. Prime Minister, this is your responsibility. We are strong and prepared to take a lot, on one condition: that there will be a diplomatic horizon for the whole region."
"You need to hit them before they come out of the ground, and at the same time to initiate a long-term 'hudna' agreement with the moderate Arab states, the US and Europe," he said, using the Arabic word for truce.
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