TEL AVIV – The Hamas terror tunnel destroyed by the IDF on Saturday was intended for an attack on the border crossing where the majority of humanitarian aid reaches the Gaza Strip, an IDF spokesperson said.
The Kerem Shalom crossing is used to transport more than five million tons of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said. The tunnel, which was completely destroyed in an air strike, also passed below strategic assets including major gas pipelines and a military installation.
According to a Hadashot TV news report, if the tunnel were to blow up under the crossing, hundreds of workers in the area could die or be injured and there would be major damage to aid trucks carrying medicine, food and fuel. The IDF said that Hamas was “sabotaging the humanitarian efforts that Israel is making for the citizens of Gaza” and added that “the Hamas terror organization repeatedly chooses to harm the welfare of Gaza residents.”
“The terrorist organization Hamas is responsible for everything happening in and out of the Gaza Strip,” a statement from the army read.
According to the news report’s military correspondent, Hamas prefers to harm Gazans rather than have them live with any semblance of normalcy. He added that this was the second time Hamas had attempted to destroy a border crossing, the first time being in 2007 after its takeover of the Strip.
The army denied the claim, made by Hamas late Saturday night, that the Israeli jets had targeted a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
“We know it’s a terror tunnel because it passes under different strategic assets,” Conricus said, referring to its proximity to the fuel pipelines into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom Crossing and a military installation nearby.
“The IDF will continue to use all the measures at its disposal, above and below ground, to thwart attempts to harm the residents of the State of Israel and to maintain the relative quiet in the area achieved after Operation Protective Edge.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the air strikes, saying, “We are retaliating against attacks on Israel by very systematically attacking the [terror] infrastructure directed at us.”
Netanyahu added, “Hamas must realize we will not allow a continuation of these attacks and [we] will respond with greater force.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also commented on the strike: “We performed a professional and precise [military] action. The destruction of the terror tunnel network is an essential component of our systematic policy to harm Hamas’s strategic capabilities. Our message to the Gazan leadership and residents of the strip is clear: invest in the sanctity of life and not in death tunnels.”
According to the army, the tunnel was discovered using the most advanced technology.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Arabic news outlet AlHurra that “the Israeli genius along with the Jewish brain have come up with a solution to all of the terrorists’ tunnels.”
“Just like there’s Iron Dome for the air, there’s a technological umbrella of steel underground,” he said. “I want to send a message to everyone who is digging or gets too close to the tunnels: As you’ve seen in the past two months, these tunnels bring only death,” he added.
The tunnel demolished on Saturday extended both into Israel and into Egypt, and could also have been used to smuggle weapons and jihadists from the Sinai into Gaza, Conricus said.