Any reticence about taking responsibility for the collapse of terror tunnels was swept aside on Monday, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed the demolition of a tunnel dug from Gaza into southern Israel as the work of “breakthrough technology.”
Five alleged Islamic Jihad members were killed and nine others badly wounded in the operation, according to a report from the Gaza Health Ministry. Islamic Jihad threatened a reprisal.
IDF officers said it was not immediately clear who dug the tunnel, but that Israel holds Hamas “accountable and responsible” for maintaining the ceasefire in Gaza.
Hamas did not immediately comment on the demolition.
In the past Israeli officials have broadly hinted involvement in several unexplained tunnel collapses in which Palestinian terrorists were killed, but on Monday, it was different.
PM Netanyahu announced the news at the weekly Likud faction meeting, saying: “I told you many times before that we are developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat. We are implementing it. Today, we located a tunnel and we destroyed it.”
“I think the message is clear to all: We will not tolerate a breach of our sovereignty,” said Liberman at a conclave of the Yisrael Beytenu party. “I emphasize that the explosion took place on our territory.”
Liberman noted that the tunnel, which extended from the Gazan city of Khan Younis and was believed to have been dug after the 2014 war, “proves that despite the Palestinian reconciliation, the Gaza Strip remains a kingdom of terror.”
The tunnel, which the IDF termed a “grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty,” crossed the border in the direction of the Israeli community of Kissufim, the army said.
“The tunnel was detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence,” the military said in a statement.
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel was over a mile away from Kissufim and never posed any immediate threat to its residents. It had been under observation for some time before Monday’s detonation.
The military would not comment on the method used in destroying the tunnel, though initial reports said it was a “controlled demolition.”
Unlike earlier instances, Conricus said that this time the IDF put an “active tunnel” out of operation, one which was still being dug.
Two previous tunnel demolitions last year, were believed to be leftovers from the 2014 conflict.