TEL AVIV – The IDF on Tuesday destroyed what it said was a “unique” Hamas attack tunnel that extended some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) into both Israeli and Egyptian territory.
The U-shaped tunnel, discovered ten days ago, was dug from inside the Gaza Strip into Egypt before continuing into Israel for a further 900 meters (half a mile).
It was intended for both smuggling weapons and committing attacks against Israel, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.
“This was a dual-use tunnel, both for smuggling and terrorism,” Manelis said, adding it was designed to “bypass (Israel’s border security) fence. In fact, it creates a bypass route through Egypt into Israeli territory. It also allows smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and carrying out terror attacks inside Israel.”
It was not clear whether Israel destroyed the part of the tunnel that ran under Egypt, but according to reports, Cairo had been informed of the strikes in advance.
On Tuesday, the air force hit more than 35 terror targets around the Gaza Strip in response to a massive barrage of more than 70 mortar shells and rockets throughout the day, including one shell that landed in a kindergarten playground minutes before the children were expected to arrive.
The targets, belonging to both Hamas and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, included weapons caches, naval targets, terror headquarters, and a training facility.
“Hamas has been allowing groups to carry out attacks in the fence’s vicinity since Nakba Day (May 15). Hamas has felt a sense of failure at reaching the fence and therefore over the past two weeks there has been a change in the number of terror groups reaching the fence under Hamas’s direction,” the official said.
He added that most of Tuesday’s mortars had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense battery but warned that the system was “still not hermetic.”
PIJ released a statement saying that the mortar fire was “a blessed response of the resistance.”
In keeping with Israel’s policy that every action in Gaza is Hamas’ responsibility, the official noted that the terror group was doing nothing to prevent PIJ from sending the projectiles over to Israel.
“Hamas [either] allows the fire to go ahead, turns a blind eye or is party to it. Hamas is not interested in escalation and yet allows the incidents to continue.”
“This is unprecedented fire,” he added. “Just like Hamas preserved calm, it now allows the noise and will face the consequences for that.”
Five Israelis sustained light to moderate wounds in Tuesday’s barrage, the army said.
On Wednesday, a senior defense official said that Israel would refrain from further attacks on Gaza if the terror groups in the coastal enclave did the same.