Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rebuked Education Minister Naftali Bennett Tuesday over the latter hinted that an IDF statement which denied any intention to kill senior militants in Monday's tunnel detonation was made as an apology for the incident.
"A briefing by the IDF Spokesperson should not be used as a pretext for a blatant attack on the IDF and its commanders," the Yisrael Beytenu chairman said about Bennett's comment, adding that "statements of this sort are a grave blow to the security of Israel and the entire IDF."
Bennett's comment came on the heels of a statement by IDF Spokesperson, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, who claimed that the tunnel's detonation "was not a targeted assassination and there was no intention at any stage to carry out an operation that could have been perceived as a direct attack against any senior militant," and that its goal was "to destroy the tunnel on our side of the territory."
The Bayit Yehudi chairman then took to social media, tweeting; "we must not apologize for the successful elimination of terrorists. These were terrorists who were digging a tunnel into Israel that was intended to kill Israeli women and children."
The tension between the two cabinet ministers is nothing new.
The two exchanged blows on a range of issues—including Bennett's plan for annexing parts of the West Bank, Bennett's criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged support of the two-state solution, Lieberman's threat to close the pre-military academy in Eli over Rabbi Yigal Levinstein's disparaging remarks about women in the IDF and more.
Seven people were killed—among them senior commanders of terror groups—and 11 wounded in an IDF explosion of a recently discovered tunnel located near the border fence which had penetrated into Israeli territory.
Preliminary evaluations, both in Israel and Gaza, deduced that the tunnels were dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants—the second largest terror movement in the strip after the ruling government of Hamas.
Two of the people killed in the explosion belonged to the military arm of the pro-Iranian PIJ, while a third was a Hamas field commander affiliated with the terror group’s elite Nukhba commando unit.
According to a senior military source, a rescue force entered the tunnel to extricate people trapped inside after being wounded in the blast and was hit by a secondary blast likely caused by the igniting of explosive materials inside.
The IDF Spokesperson said that most of the dead in the incident were from the rescue force, killed do to "side effects that occur in such situations in a tunnel, such as falling debris, smoke and dust."
As for the possibility that members of the rescue force were killed by some other means, such as a secondary blast, Manelis clarified that it is possible that they died as a result of something placed inside the tunnel, but stressed that the IDF "did not pump anything into the tunnel and used legal and ordinary means to detonate it."