Israeli Army Hits Gaza Terror Targets; Palestinians Claim Tunnel Destroyed

Army says 'terrorist infrastructure' targeted ■ Kerem Shalom border crossing, linking Gaza to Israel, to close Sunday morning, Israeli army informs Palestinians

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File photo: Israeli air force attacks targets in Gaza, November 30, 2017
File photo: Israeli air force attacks targets in Gaza, November 30, 2017Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel army planes attacked what the military described as "terror targets" along the border with Gaza, the army announced late Saturday. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said that it views Hamas as responsible for what happens in Gaza.

>>Hamas approaches end-game in Gaza as Israel sharpens its tunnel-elimination prowess | Analysis

Palestinian sources say that a tunnel was the target of the attack. Three tunnels have been reportedly been identified and destroyed since the end of October.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Sunday before departing for his trip to India. "There are people who say that the IDF attacks sand dunes - this isn't true. We have responded to attacks against the State of Israel, which we've done with a highly systematic attack on infrastructure aimed against us. Hamas needs to understand that we will not allow these offensives, and that we will respond with even greater might."

Since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, more than 40 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, only half of which landed in Israeli territory. No Israelis were hurt by rocket fire. Israel attributes the rocket fire to Salafist groups in Gaza, and in one case has attributed fire to Islamic Jihad.

Over the weekend, Palestinian demonstrations continued close to the security barrier along the Strip, focusing on protest against Trump's declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. Overall 176 Palestinians were injured in protests.

Earlier, the IDF informed the Palestinians on Saturday evening that it was decided to temporarily close for all traffic the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, starting Sunday morning. The army said the decision, which is unusual, was reached "in accordance with current assessments."

The crossing is the Gaza Strip's main line of supplies. Every day roughly 500 trucks, carrying goods from the West Bank and Israel, pass through it and into the coastal enclave. Recently, tensions have run high along the border, where Israel continues to build an anti-tunnel wall and where three offensive tunnels were recently unearthed, as well as a recent surge in rocket fire.

Israeli officials, and among them the prime minister, the defense minister and the military's chief of staff, have recently warned Hamas and Islamic Jihad on several occasions against continuing to dig tunnels and announced that Israel would act to locate and destroy them. Last week the IDF's chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, oversaw a drill of an elite IDF unit which centered on a scenario of a large terror cell infiltrating an Israeli community along the border with the Gaza Strip through a tunnel.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, published a statement in which he accused Hamas of handing out hand grenades to youngsters who participated in the protests. The latter then hurled the hand grenades toward IDF troops close to the security barrier.

In the West Bank, security forces are continuing to hunt after the Palestinian cell whose members shot to death last week Rabbi Raziel Shevach near the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad, west of Nablus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that he expects to see progress soon in the cracking of the case that led to the terror attack.

The Israeli military and the Shin Bet are both disturbed by acts of violence carried out by extreme right-wing activist in reaction to the murder of Shevach. Since the attack at least eight cases have been recorded of the destruction of Palestinian property by Israelis in the Nablus area, such as the smashing of car windows and the destruction of Palestinian olive trees.

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