Report: Israel Alerted U.S., Egypt to Tunnel Demolition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Trucks loaded with food supplies at a Gaza crossing. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

Israel notified both the United States and Egypt before it destroyed the Hamas terror tunnel Sunday night, security officials were quoted by Ha’aretz as saying. The Egyptians were consulted because of the location of the tunnel – just meters away from the Egyptian border with Gaza – and Egypt did not raise objections to the Israeli attack, which took place on the Gaza side of the border fence.

The report quoted the sources as saying that the Egyptians saw the tunnel as the crossing of a red line by Hamas. According to security officials, the tunnel, which was located 900 meters from the border fence with Sinai, extended 180 meters into Israeli territory, but there were signs that Hamas, which officials said was responsible for the tunnel, was planning to dig in the other direction as well, into Sinai. The report said that Egypt was taken by surprise when it heard about the tunnel, as Hamas generally did not build tunnels in this area.

The tunnel destroyed by the IDF overnight Sunday was positioned in southern Gaza, near the Kerem Shalom crossing where the borders of Israel, Gaza, and Sinai meet. The IDF said in a statement that it was possible that the tunnel would have been extended into the direction of Sinai, allowing Gaza terrorists to send men and material to Sinai.

On the Israeli side, the exit of the tunnel was adjacent to the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as to the crossing’s communications center, and a natural gas installation. Officials said they believed the tunnel may have been intended to enable a Hamas takeover of the crossing. Unique about this tunnel, the IDF said, is that “it clearly was not a tunnel for smuggling merchandise, but specifically made for attacks.”

IDF officials are set to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss security in the area, and the possibility of reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing point. The crossing point was closed Saturday night, hours before the terror tunnel was destroyed. Officials said the tunnel actually passed under the crossing, indicating that Gaza terrorists had planned to conduct a terror attack on the site, smuggling terrorists into the crossing and taking it over.

The crossing was closed all day Sunday and Monday, but reopening it is a priority, as it is considered the main lifeline for Gaza. In 2017, the crossing took in 570,000 tons of food, 7,000 tons of medical supplies, and tens of thousands of household, agricultural, and industrial goods.

On Monday, officials at Ashdod Port seized a shipment of military clothing that was to be sent to Gaza. The shipment had been destined to be sent to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military clothing and other military gear are banned for import into Gaza. Security officials said they would continue to interdict illegal goods sent to Gaza.