Following the IDF discovery of an attack tunnel burrowing from Gaza into Israel, the GOC Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, warned Hamas on Monday that it will pay a heavy price if war breaks out again.
"Hamas is attempting to restore its military capabilities - capabilities which were hit hard during the last operation - and is also preparing for war. However, the organization is aware of the heavy price it will pay if war breaks out again," he told Ynet after the news of the tunnel broke.
"The IDF is deployed to the area, trained for any scenario, and we will work according to situational reports to defend the residents of the south," the general vowed.
"Our forces are working continuously and tirelessly with a variety of the most advanced equipment and techniques, which I can't elaborate on at this time, to locate any additional tunnels if there are any," Zamir said.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said on Monday evening that "the IDF puts the tunnel challenge at the top of its priorities and continues investing time and resources to remove the threat."
An additional high ranking IDF officer said "this is a violation of Israeli sovereignty. Although the tunnel was neutralized, it will still be dealt with."
He also warned that "the IDF has enough firepower for other situations."
Meanwhile, Hamas claimed that the tunnel found was "nothing more than a drop in the bucket of what the resistance has prepared to defend the people and liberate our holy sites, land, and prisoners."
'This is what we're living with every day'
The GOC Southern Command claimed that "after Operation Protective Edge, the residents of the Gaza border area have experienced their quietest period in the past decade," but residents say much more remains to be done in order to improve their sense of security in their homes.
Adi Hamawi of Kibbutz Nirim said that the residents of the area knew about the tunnels "for a while now. We also know about other tunnels in the area, so we aren't very surprised. The Israeli public was a little bit more surprised because they learned something new, but here, nothing has really changed since Protective Edge - neither our sense of security nor our actual security. The tunnels were being dug during and even after the last war. This only shows what we've been living with every day."
Despite this, Hamawi says that "we don't live in fear that one day people will emerge out of the tunnel. We can't live in fear every day; we have to continue and enjoy the good this area of the country brings. However, it's important that the government put the problems in the Gaza border area on the table, deal with it once and for all and not to leave the situation as it is."
"This is what happened after Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge," he continued. "Nothing has changed on the ground."
Gadi Yarkoni, head of the Eshkol Regional Council where the tunnel opening was found, thanked the IDF and the Israeli security forces for their "intensive efforts in destroying these terror tunnels," adding that "The early finding of the tunnel is evidence of the many advanced techniques and groundbreaking technologies that the security services and the IDF are using."
With that in mind, he added, "I'm sorry to say that the tunnel threat isn't new to us, and we've gotten used to this threat since the end of Operation Protective Edge. We expect the IDF to continue to work with all of the means available to it to provide protection to the residents of the communities here."
Matan Tzuri, Reut Rimerman, and Yoav Zitun contributed to this report.