TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to critics accusing his government of failing to deal with freshly dug terror tunnels under the Israel-Gaza border by threatening to blow up the subterranean passages and act with far more force than in the 2014 war with Hamas.
“We are working methodically and calmly against all threats, including threats from Hamas, both with defensive and offensive measures. And of course, in the event we are attacked from tunnels in the Gaza Strip, we will act very forcefully against Hamas, and with much more force than Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu said in a conference of Israeli diplomats on Sunday.
According to recent reports, the terror group has rebuilt many of the tunnels destroyed during the summer 2014 conflict, with some senior IDF officials estimating that the number of tunnels extending beneath the border into Israel is now close to the number prior to Operation Protective Edge.
Netanyahu, who also acts as Israel’s foreign minister, assured the diplomats that Israel would have international backing were it to embark on another campaign to destroy the tunnels, and warned Hamas not to “try us.”
“I think they understand this in the region, understand this in the world,” he continued. “I hope we won’t need to, but our capabilities — both defensive and offensive — are developing rapidly.”
Earlier on Sunday, opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed the government for being “idle” and called on Netanyahu to bomb the tunnels, warning of future bloodshed if no action is taken.
“The political leadership must provide a clear public answer to the citizens. Stop hesitating,” Herzog said. “They must instruct the IDF to bomb the tunnels and destroy this threat. Especially if there are tunnels that have already crossed the border into Israel.
“Why are we waiting? For terrorists, with their weapons drawn, to emerge in a kibbutz or a moshav [settlement]? The prime minister and the defense minister must provide an answer to the citizens.
“One day, we’ll wake up and discover that, once again, we underestimated the seriousness of the threat,” Herzog added. “It will cost us in blood and terrible sorrow.”
On Saturday, the terror group released a new video clip praising fighters who are “toiling day and night” to build the attack tunnels. The preceding Thursday saw the death of at least seven fighters who became trapped in a collapsed tunnel, Hamas sources told Breitbart Jerusalem.
Israeli residents of areas near the Gaza Strip said over the weekend that tunnel digging into Israel has come so close to their homes that it has caused their floors to shake. They also expressed disappointment that the IDF has not fulfilled the promise made after the 2014 war with Gaza to build protective barriers against the terror tunnels.