Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman lauded new Israeli tech that enabled the discovery and demolition of a Hamas tunnel crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
“I have said several times that we are developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat. We are applying that technology,” Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting shortly after a controlled explosion rocked the Gaza border area. “Today, we discovered and demolished it and we will continue to do so. We hold Hamas responsible for any violation of our sovereignty emanating from areas under its control and by persons subject to its authority.”
Liberman, too, said that IDF success in locating and destroying the tunnel was “the result of impressive operational capabilities, as well as a significant technological breakthrough, which allows us to best deal with the tunnel threat.”
He added: “The message is clear to all – we will not tolerate the violation of Israeli sovereignty, and I’m emphasizing the fact that the controlled explosion happened on our side of the border. This was a blatant violation of sovereignty, and any other norms practiced between companies, countries and organizations which respect themselves. This is proof that, despite the Palestinian reconciliation, that the Gaza strip remains a ‘kingdom of terror,’ and as far as we are concerned, Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the Security Cabinet who was highly critical of Israel’s preparedness to deal with the tunnel threat before the onset of the 2014 Gaza war, added: “The IDF has learned from Operation Protective Edge and is using its intelligence, technology, engineering and operational abilities to apprehend such attempts and ensure the security of those living near Gaza.”
Engineers are currently at work on a NIS 3 billion Gaza border fence that runs above and below ground and includes an underground concrete barrier armed with cameras and sensors due for completion by early 2019. It is unclear whether the tunnel blown up Monday was exposed during works on the barrier.
Col. (res.) Atai Shelach, the former commander of the IDF’s “Yahalom” combat engineering unit said in a call with the Israel Project however that the tunnel would be “neither the first and not the last tunnel that the IDF will explode”.
“It wouldn’t be a wild guess to assume that there are many [other tunnels]. They are improving their capabilities to dig more and more. From our side, we will try to prevent them from digging more and more and to expose [the tunnels].”