Israeli Army Destroys Gaza Attack Tunnel Reaching Into Israel; 'Iron Dome' Deployed in South

Palestinians say 8 dead, 13 hurt ■ IDF says tunnel is 'gross violation of sovereignty' and 'required a military response'

A Palestinian youth walks inside a tunnel used for military exercises during a weapon exhibition at a Hamas-run youth summer camp, in Gaza City, July 20, 2016.
A Palestinian youth walks inside a tunnel used for military exercises during a weapon exhibition at a Hamas-run youth summer camp, in Gaza City, July 20, 2016. Adel Hana/AP

The Israel Defense Forces bombed an attack tunnel that had been dug from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory, close to near Kibbutz Kissufim, on Monday afternoon. Iron Dome missile defense systems were deployed in southern Israel ahead of the operation.

Palestinian sources in Gaza confirm that the Israeli air force carried out the attack and said that a number of Hamas men are feared missing as a result. Palestinian health officials in Gaza said that eight were killed and 13 were hurt in the incident.

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Among those killed were Masbah Shobir, aged 30, Omar Nasser Al-Felit, aged 27, and Ahmad Khalil Armana, aged 25. At least one of those killed was a member of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad.

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The IDF said the tunnel, which was still under construction, reached Israeli territory near the Gaza border fence, across from the Palestinian town of Khan Yunis.

It was discovered in an area where the barrier intended to stop the building of such tunnels, which security forces have been working on for the last few months, had not yet been constructed.

IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis told reporters that the tunnel was a "gross violation of Israeli sovereignty" that required a military response.

He added that the army was aware of the route of the tunnel and believed that it did not pose any danger. However, after deliberations, it was decided to destory it in order to prevent a hazardous situation.

Manelis said that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for any activity in the Gaza Strip and believes that the organization was aware of the tunnel.

He did not answer a question on whether the tunnel was built by Hamas or Palestinian Islamist group Islamic Jihad.

The spokesman stressed that Israel is not seeking an escalation and has no interest in military conflict in Gaza.

Islamic Jihad responded to the event, stating that they will neglect "protecting the land and the Palestinian people."