Israeli Air Force jets neutralized an offensive Hamas terror tunnel in the vicinity of the Erez border crossing, it was cleared for publication Saturday night. The tunnel was located on the grounds of the so-called "security perimeter," mere meters from Israeli territory.
The tunnel, the army said, was still being excavated and was intended to reach Israeli land near the Erez kibbutz and the crossing named after it, used as a pedestrian humanitarian crossing. After weeks of surveillance, it was decided to destroy it.
Palestinians said the strike caused no casualties, and that ten missiles were launched at the tunnel, situated in the vicinity of the city of Beit Hanoun.
Locating the tunnel and its subsequent destruction, the IDF added, were part of the ongoing Israeli effort to foil the Gaza terror groups' subterranean terrorism—and chiefly efforts by Hamas, which rules the isolated enclave.
The most recent tunnel joins another tunnel excavated underneath the Kerem Shalom crossing and neutralized this past January. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit noted that the tunnel destroyed Saturday was the first assailed before actually crossing into Israel.
Advanced technologies were used to pinpoint the exact location of the tunnel before it crossed the security fence into Israel, the army added.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis confirmed that, "We have attacked nine tunnels thus far, but this was the first attacked before crossing (into Israel). Hamas has been acting for the past several weeks to turn the perimeter into a zone of terrorism and violence.
"Hamas is trying to transform the border fence protests, including those expected to take place Monday and Tuesday, into covers for terror attacks. Hamas's action yesterday against the Kerem Shalom crossing (which was burned down on the Gaza side by Palestinians—ed) was cynical to both Gazans and donor countries.
"The fact that Hamas excavated a tunnel underneath the crossing proved that it endangers its own civilians. Hamas is killing the Gaza Strip."
Brig.-Gen. Manelis further noted that due to planned protests next week for the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Nakba Day, the IDF will halt all regular training sessions in the coming week and bring in three brigades to bolster the forces of the Gaza and West Bank divisions.
"We are not looking to escalation or deterioration," Manelis stated. "We are prepared for the coming days in greater urgency than we have been recently."
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that, "Hamas is spreading slogans about its desire for a long-term 'hudna' (armistice), but in reality continues digging terror tunnels into Israeli territory."
"We aren't buying this bluff. We'll continue, as we did this evening, to go after terror infrastructures. The only formula that can be taken into consideration is demilitarization in return for rehabilitation," the defense minister concluded.
Hamas issued comment about the tunnel's detonation as well, saying that "the Israeli strike in the northern Gaza Strip was a failed attempt to prevent the masses from participating in the March of Return protests."
Israeli citizens residing in the region reported aerial activity and explosions being clearly audible in Sderot as well as in the Israeli communities surrounding Gaza.
Some 15,000 Palestinian rioters burned tires and threw grenades, pipe bombs and stones at IDF troops near the Gaza border with Israel on Friday in the seventh weekly protest aimed at breaking a decade-old blockade of the enclave.
IDF soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas volleys from the other side of the border fence. The Palestinians reported one mortality in the riots, a man in his forties.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived at the northern Gaza border on Friday afternoon to encourage the rioters.
"We're expecting the great march on the 14 and 15 of this month - the entire Palestinian people will be out on the streets of Palestine," he said.'
During the riots, hundreds of Palestinian rioters vandalized and set fire to a fuel complex and a conveyor belt on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom, the strip's main cargo crossing with Israel, causing more than $9 million in damages and disrupting the import of diesel fuel and building materials.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided Saturday to close the crossing until further notice.