Senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member Khaled al-Batsh alluded that the terrorist tunnel the IDF detonated on Monday on the Gaza border was intended for kidnapping Israeli civilians, who would then be exchanged for imprisoned PIJ terrorists.
"The freedom tunnel that was attacked yesterday by the enemy was meant for the release of our prisoners," al-Batsh disclosed, adding that the PIJ are undeterred, and will have "another tunnel for the release of the prisoners" in the future.
Al-Batsh asserted that his organization reserves the right to resist, reasoning it using the ancient retaliation principle of "an eye for an eye."
"We will continue our battle out of determination," he said. "We have the right—blood for blood; we will not give up our right to resist."
"The arms of the resistance and the Al-Quds Brigades are long," he added. "Our response to the crime is to continue preparing for the defense of our people and our homeland.
"We will continue this until the release of the prisoners."
Al-Batsh then repeated the words of PIJ spokesperson Da’ud Shihab, reiterating that they will not allow Israel to "reshuffle the cards or impose a new status quo regarding the rules of engagement whenever they strike our people down.
Finally, echoing Hamas, al-Batsh concluded by stressing that the PIJ will never lay down their arms.
"Our weapons will remain in our hands; we will not allow anyone to demilitarize us," he concluded.
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."
Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rebuked Education Minister Naftali Bennett after the latter insinuated that the IDF should not apologize for any terrorists killed by its detonating the terrorist tunnel.
Bennett's initial comments 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, 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."
Bennett 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."
Lieberman, one of Bennett's most common sparring partners, responded to his criticism by saying, "A briefing by the IDF Spokesperson should not be used as a pretext for a blatant attack on the IDF and its commanders," adding that "statements of this sort are a grave blow to the security of Israel and the entire IDF."