'We've Never Seen One Like This': Israel Destroys Gaza Attack Tunnel

Army says the tunnel, which passed under Kerem Shalom border crossing and extended into Egyptian territory, was designed to smuggle weapons and militants for attacks

An image of the tunnel released by the Israeli army on January 14, 2018.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The planes that hit targets along Israel's border with Gaza late Saturday night destroyed an attack tunnel, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. 

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According to the Israeli army, the tunnel passed under the Kerem Shalom border crossing, near the Egyptian border. The IDF said it also extended into Egyptian territory. "We have not encountered a tunnel like that before," IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

In contrast to Hamas' claims that the tunnel was used for smuggling goods, the IDF unequivocally stated that it was an attack tunnel used to smuggle in weapons, terrorists and other operatives into Israel in order to carry out terror attacks.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the main entryway of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Kerem Shalom

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The army said that it views Hamas as responsible for what happens in Gaza. "We have no intention of escalating the situation, but we are prepared for every scenario," it said.

The military said in a statement that the tunnel extended from the Palestinian town of Rafah, staring about 900 meters west of the Israeli border, and was dug below the border crossing and under pipelines used to transport natural gas and fuel. It reached 180 meters into Israeli territory.

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On Saturday evening the army informed the Palestinians that it would temporarily close the Kerem Shalom crossing for all traffic starting Sunday morning. The army said the decision, which is unusual, was reached "in accordance with current assessments."

"This is a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following the strike. "The destruction of the network of attack tunnels is an essential part of our policy of systematically harming Hamas' strategic capabilities."

This is the fourth tunnel Israel destroyed by Israel in recent months. After Saturday's tunnel strike, the military said it can confidently state that Israel holds "the most advanced capability in the world to locate underground tunnels." It said that it intends to destroy all of the tunnels extending from the Gaza Strip into Israel by 2018.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke early 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.