IDF destroys 2km long Hamas terror tunnel entering into Israel
The 'irregular' tunnel entered 900 meters into Israeli territory, destroyed near Kerem Shalom border crossing; 30 terror targets overall hit since morning, belonging to both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in most significant strike since 2014's Operation Protective Edge.
The tunnel, an army official said in a briefing, was intended for both smuggling operations and terrorism. "It was the tenth tunnel we destroyed," the official said. "It was under construction by Hamas and had yet to be completed. We attacked its shafts on the Rafah side."
The official expounded that the tunnel was "irregular in its characteristics" and noted it was two kilometers in length overall. "It's an extremely long tunnel," the official revealed. "It had exit shafts on the Egyptian side. It was handled with aerial assaults and in the coming hours the portion crossing into Israel will also be dealt with to complete its neutralization."
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis added that Egypt was apprised of the tunnel's existence before the army began destroying it.
"This was a dual-use tunnel, both for smuggling and terrorism," he said, adding it was designed to "bypass (Israel's border security) fence. In fact, it creates a bypass route through Egypt into Israeli territory. It also allows smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and carrying out terror attacks inside Israel."
The IDF spokesperson noted called the tunnel's length "exceptional," and noted it was "constructed according to building code the Hamas uses to build its tunnels."
Before speaking on the tunnel, the IDF divulged that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group was behind the salvo of dozens of mortar shells fired at Israeli communities near the Gaza border earlier in the day.
"We've pinpointed 30 mortars with certainty and deduced the rest were machinegun bullets," the official said. Apart from the dozens of mortars, the IDF added that several 107 millimeter Iranian rockets were fired as well, with the IDF calling it the "most serious incident since Operation Protective Edge. The Islamic Jihad is endangering civilians in our communities."
In response to the morning salvo, an IDF spokesman said the army retaliated by attacking more than 30 terror targets around the strip, belonging to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including weapons storehouses, outposts and a Hamas tunnel in the southern strip.
"Hamas has been allowing groups to carry out attacks in the fence's vicinity since Nakba Day (May 15). Hamas has felt a sense of failure at reaching the fence and therefore over the past two weeks there has been a change in the number of terror groups reaching the fence under Hamas's direction," the official said.
The army spokesman then went on to clarify the Gaza-ruling terror group was steering events in the strip. "This morning's mortar bombs were intercepted by the Iron Dome, which demonstrates (Israel's) technological advancement, but (coverage is) still not hermetic," he said.
An IDF official later specified that the Iron Dome system intercepted 25 mortars of the dozens launched from Gaza, which nevertheless led to five Israelis being wounded lightly to moderately.The army later reiterated its instruction for Israelis residing on the Gaza perimeter to remain within 15 seconds of shelters at all times.
The official concluded his statement by saying "Hamas will decide the direction the coming days take. Hamas allows the fire, turns a blind eye or is party to it. Hamas is not interested in escalation and yet allows the incidents to continue."
"This is unprecedented fire," he added. "Just like Hamas preserved calm, it now allows the noise and will face the consequences for that."