Destroyed Hamas tunnel larger than predecessors, could fit dozens of terrorists
Depth of destroyed tunnel estimated to be dozens of meters underground, height and width large enough to allow passage of dozens of terrorists, equipment; tunnel discovered weeks ago, Egypt notified of its existence over weekend, said to be incensed with Hamas at breach of sovereignty; Kerem Shalom Crossing to reopen Tuesday.
The tunnel was first discovered several weeks ago, while Egypt was notified of its existence this past weekend, and is incensed with Hamas due to the tunnel's encroachments into the Sinai Peninsula.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit made known Monday that the Kerem Shalom crossing will reopen Tuesday, now that the tunnel running underneath it had been destroyed and the security threat foiled.
"The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for all goings on in the Gaza Strip and for the welfare of its denizens. Any attempt to harm Israel's citizens or sovereignty will be met with decisive force. The IDF will continue working to foil terrorist organizations' efforts underground, wherever it needs to do so," the IDF Spokesperson's Unit's announcement said.
Head of the District Coordination and Liaison Office in Gaza Col. Fares Attila addressed the tunnel's destruction Monday during a Kerem Shalom meeting with some 40 representatives of the international community.
"The representatives of international organizations saw with their own eyes today that the Hamas terror organization attempts to achieve its goal of harming Israel and its citizens by any means necessary," Col. Attila said.
"The Kerem Shalom Crossing is the main lifeline into the Gaza Strip and any damage done to it is akin to a terrorist attack against the people of Gaza," he added.
"The tunnel's excavation is further proof that the people of Gaza are being held hostage by Hamas and are excluded from its considerations, as it tramples them itself. So long as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority don't make the welfare of the people of Gaza their top priority, the economic crisis will only worsen further. Israel will continue taking steps to first and foremost defend its own people," Attila vowed.
Commander of the Southern Brigade in the Gaza Division Col. Kobi Heler also attended the tour, which took diplomats, ambassadors, military attachés and representatives of international organizations through Kerem Shalom.
During the tour of the crossing and its environs, civilian measures Israel has undertaken to assist the people of Gaza were showcased, including the reopening of the only crossing for goods and equipment from Israel to Gaza and from the isolated enclave to the outside world.
Col. Heler said, "Closing the Kerem Shalom goods passage was a step we had no desire to take, but were left no choice by Hamas, which is the sovereign and the body responsible for anything that happens in and out of the strip."
"(The tunnel) was a severe violation of Israeli sovereignty and a direct assault on the people of Gaza. The excavation of the terror tunnel underneath the sole goods' passage is an example of Hamas concerning itself more with terrorism than with rehabilitating the strip," Heler analyzed.
Heler also met with members of the Kerem Shalom kibbutz Monday and told them, "The fact Hamas has not responded with fire after the tunnel was demolished proves we've maintained our deterrence against it."
"Their inaction following our action is deterrence. If there are other tunnels, we'll locate them using technological measures," he assured them, adding "the IDF is far better prepared now than it was before Operation Protective Edge, both technologically and with regards to the troops on the Gaza border."
Col. Heler further told the residents he views 2018 "as a year of development and growth, and I don't see, at this stage, a confrontation on the horizon."
"Hamas suffered a serious blow, we destroyed a significant assert of theirs, and this is a great achievement," he asserted.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke at his party's parliamentary meeting Monday afternoon about the tunnel's destruction and said, "I assume the tunnel we uncovered was not the last to infringe Egyptian sovereignty and cross into Sinai. It's reasonable to assume there are others."
"it's also perhaps worth noting that of all the terror finances funneled into Gaza, 100 million dollars are coming in from Iran. Those 100 million are then divided between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which says something as to Iran's peaceful intentions," Lieberman said.
Lieberman further revealed that, "Hamas held a rocket test tonight. They shot three rockets towards the sea, which only goes to prove that despite the humanitarian situation and the shortage of basic items, they carry on manufacturing and testing rockets."
The defense minister said the 2017 budget for Hamas's military wing was 260 million dollars. "Those 260 million dollars were invested wholly in tunnels and making rockets. If they had invested them in their water or health systems, they'd be in a different situation altogether," he said.