Amid threats of reprisals from Islamic Jihad for the tunnel blast, the IDF suspended construction of an underground barrier along the Gaza border on Wednesday, as a safety precaution for workers on the project, The Times of Israel reported.
“The [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad will have a hard time holding back,” said an unnamed senior official in the IDF’s Southern Command. He added that the multiple deaths in the tunnel action, plus pressure from its backers in Tehran, raised the prospect of retaliation.
The barrier under construction is designed to thwart attack tunnels like the one destroyed on Monday.
The work crews wear protective vests and have security escorts, but the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, called off construction temporarily, citing the danger they could be targeted by sharpshooters from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Local Israeli farmers have likewise been warned against getting too close to the separation fence since Monday. They were told that reprisal could come any time in the next few days.
Although the tunnel destroyed on Monday is believed to have been built after the 2014 Gaza war, an IDF official said that the new underground barrier has forced Hamas and other terror groups to focus more on defensive underground infrastructure within the Strip, rather than attack tunnels that enter Israel.