Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a harsh warning to Hamas at an ambassadors' conference at the Foreign Ministry on Sunday, vowing that "if we are attacked from the tunnels in the Gaza Strip, we will act with immense force against Hamas, much more than we used in Operation Protective Edge."
Netanyahu also asserted that Israel is "working methodically and level-headedly against all threats, including that from Hamas, using both offensive and defensive measures."
The prime minister said he expects his message to be understood both locally and globally. "I hope that it won't come to this, but our offensive and defensive capabilities are developing fast and I wouldn't suggest that anyone try us."
Netanyahu also told ambassadors that he has spent just six hours in negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the last seven years. "Abbas is on the international frontlines. But apart from Sweden, there is almost no state that supports him.
"Most world leaders are not interested in settlement-building. They want to move things forward in their own country," the prime minister continued. "Palestinian children are fed on hatred and the desire to destroy Israel. If this was solely a matter of settlements, the conflict would be over.
"Therefore Abbas is scared of dialogue, because it would force him to give up on the right of return (for Palestinians)."
Netanyahu also called for increased contact with the Arab world, noting that "we will be able to put forward pragmatic solutions regarding the Palestinians. Arab countries relate to our messaging much more because most of them know the truth."
In a separate event on Sunday evening, the IDF also tried to assuage the fears of residents of the Gaza envelope. Brig.-Gen. Itay Virov, commander of the IDF's Gaza Division, met with heads of local authorities in Sderot and the Gaza border communities in the wake of reports that Hamas is restoring its military force and once again digging tunnels.
In a recent discussion between a Gaza Division official and border community residents, the IDF officer warned that Hamas in Gaza is once again prepared for a military campaign against Israel. The group "has rebuilt the tunnels, its rocket systems, intelligence collection, reconnaissance, and it is essentially prepared for war," said the IDF officer.
In Sunday evening's meeting, however, Virov said: "We are in a better situation that we were before Operation Protective Edge. "We are aware of the dangers and are investing great effort and sparing no expense in trying to locate the tunnels.
"Our working assumption is that Hamas is continuing to dig. There is no general solution for identifying the tunnels, but we are working non-stop to find them."
The heads of the Gaza envelope's local authorities again raised the issue of the "smart fence" that had been planned for the border, to separate their communities from the Strip and which was also intended to counter the threat of the tunnels.
Virov responded that there is no limit to the funds for dealing with the threat from tunnels. He added that residents' complaints of hearing digging noises under their houses were being thoroughly investigated and that they were also using intelligence information to locate the tunnels.
"I can only tell you that we are investing everything possible in order to respond to the underground threat," Virov said.