A general view of the interior of a cross-border attack tunnel dug from Gaza to Israel, near Kissufim, seen on January 18, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JACK GUEZ)
The Israel Air Force struck an underground network of terrorist tunnels in the Gaza Strip overnight on Sunday, after a rocket launched from the Hamas-run enclave struck southern Israel, the IDF announced.
It was the second Hamas tunnel in Gaza to be struck in as many days, and the sixth tunnel destroyed since late October.
“Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip, above and below ground,” the statement read. “The army will continue to act to ensure security for the citizens of Israel using all means at its disposal.”
Earlier on Sunday, incoming rocket sirens were activated in communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev region bordering the northern Gaza Strip. A rocket fell in open territory near the city of Sderot causing no damage or injuries.
According to Palestinian reports, jets fired some 10 missiles towards the Hamas tunnel. The tunnel was located in an agricultural area near the destroyed Dahiniye airport, east of Rafah in the southern part of the Strip close to the Israeli border. No casualties were reported.
The previous night, a home in the Sha’ar Hanegev community of Or Haner was directly hit by a rocket causing damage but no injuries to the family inside.
The rocket was launched several hours after four IDF soldiers were wounded – two seriously, including a combat engineer officer, and two moderately – after an improvised explosive device detonated against their military jeep as they patrolled the border fence south of the Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon.
The IDF later confirmed that it had carried out large-scale strikes against 18 terrorist targets belonging to Hamas, including an attack tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City that was dug toward Israeli territory.
“Harming IDF soldiers constitutes a grave terrorist [attack],” Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, the head of the southern command, said Sunday afternoon at a military ceremony. “We will not abide by this reality of using the land around the fence for terrorism.”
“Anyone seeking to undermine Israel’s security will be met with a determined response. We have considerable power and will not hesitate to exercise it as needed, despite our desire to maintain stability and avoid escalation.”
While the security establishment does not believe that Hamas currently seeks another war, the situation is fragile, especially given the worsening conditions in the Strip. Gazans have been demonstrating on the border fence with Israel each Friday throughout recent months and the army believes that Hamas is using these weekly demonstrations as a cover to carry out terrorist attacks.
The explosive device that detonated on Saturday had been hidden inside a Palestinian flag and placed near the fence during last Friday’s demonstrations.
“This is further proof of the utilization of disturbances near the fence by Hamas and other terrorist groups as cover for terrorism. Anyone seeking to undermine Israel’s security will meet a determined response based on intelligence and aerial, land and naval capabilities,” Zamir warned.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed to eliminate those responsible for the attack, which he said was carried out by the Popular Resistance Committees organization, a group comprising several terrorist groups.
“Until we eliminate them, the score remains unsettled,” he said. “It will take two days, a week, or two weeks. We’ll eliminate anyone behind the attack’s execution.”