Netanyahu warns Hamas of Israeli 'force' after IDF strikes Gaza 'terror tunnel'
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed to respond to the Hamas terrorist organization with “even greater force” if necessary, alluding to an overnight strike on "terrorist infrastructure" on the Gaza-Sinai border.
"There are those who have said the IDF just targeted sand dunes — this is incorrect," Netanyahu said in remarks to Israeli media before departing on his trip to India. "Hamas must understand that we will not permit these attacks and we will respond with even greater force.”
Hours later, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) confirmed reports that the target of the strike was a Hamas "terror tunnel" burrowed under the Kerem Hashalom goods crossing between Gaza and Israel.
The IDF said it attacked the opening of the tunnel on the Palestinian side of Rafah. Palestinian security sources in Gaza said nobody was wounded in the Israeli strike.
While Hamas claimed that the tunnel was used to pass goods into Gaza, the IDF said that it was intended to smuggle weapons and militants into the Palestinian enclave for terrorist attacks.
According to an IDF statement, the tunnel originated some 900 meters from the Israeli security fence and burrowed into Israeli territory under three strategic sites at Kerem Hashalom, including a gas pipeline, diesel fuel pipe, and main antenna of the crossing, before continuing into Egyptian territory for an unspecified length.
The strike came hours after Israel's defense ministry said the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Gaza and Israel near Rafah would be closed from Sunday "until further notice" following “security assessments.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed the operation as "professional and precise", and added that "destroying the network of offensive tunnels is an essential component in our policy of systematically damaging the strategic abilities of Hamas."
"The message to the Gaza leadership and residents is clear -- invest in life and not burial tunnels," Liberman said.
WATCH: Footage from within a #Hamas tunnel which penetrated into #Israel from #Gaza. It was built underneath the Kerem Shalom border crossing and destroyed by the #IDF @i24NEWS_EN pic.twitter.com/qP5Qmx1PJa— Shai Ben-ari (@ShaiBenari) January 14, 2018
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said that in addition to the airstrikes other unspecified means were used to destroy the tunnel portions in Israeli territory, and added that Israel had coordinated with Egypt on the operation.
Israel says it has been developing a new method to identify and destroy such tunnels, though it does not comment on details.
It is also building an underground wall in the area around the Gaza Strip to stop such tunnels.
The latest tunnel was the third destroyed since late October by Israel, but it comes at a particularly sensitive time.
Israel’s operation on Saturday was conducted against a backdrop of a number of rocket attacks against Israel, emanating from the Gaza Strip.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for any attacks coming from the coastal enclave.
Cross-border violence between Israel and Gaza has increased since US President Donald Trump's December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has angered Palestinians who see the city as the capital of their future state.
Sixteen Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, 14 in clashes and two in a retaliatory air strike on Gaza.
Violent riots raged in the Gaza Strip and across the West Bank as parts remain under military lock down following the shooting of a settler in the Nablus area last week, the Israel Defense Forces reported Friday.
According to the IDF, rioters in four different locations along the Israel-Gaza border burnt tires and hurled rocks at Israeli security forces. In response, the IDF fired live rounds towards the main instigators who were believed to pose a threat to IDF soldiers and the security fence.
Similar clashes took place in 17 different locations within the West Bank, the IDF said, while also continuing efforts to catch the perpetrators of a terrorist attack which killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach on a West Bank road last Tuesday.
(Staff with agencies)
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should end the palis ownership of Gaza and turn it into beautiful beachfront property in Israel. move those palis to the Egyptian side of the border or bury the terrorists.