Israeli military engineers discovered a tunnel that extends from the territory of Gaza into southern Israel. The tunnel allegedly belongs to Hamas.
According to Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, the military discovered the tunnel by using underground sensors. The tunnel was “dozens of meters” underground. The sensors are attached to a concrete barrier that the Israeli engineers are constructing that will run about 40 miles along the border with Gaza.
Hamas uses such tunnels to infiltrate fighters to Israel in order to conduct terrorist attacks and smuggle commercial goods unavailable to the people in Gaza because of the Israeli blockade.
Another IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said that the tunnel ran from the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis to the Israeli border where it terminated under the border barrier.
“We have not seen an exit point from the tunnel. So you could deduce from that that the aim was not for the terrorists to emerge from that location, but rather further inside Israel.”
While no one has taken responsibility for the construction of the tunnel, the Israeli government holds Hamas responsible for all that transpires within Gaza. Hamas has not commented on the affair.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz assured residents along the Gazan border that the security situation was well in hand.
“I am telling residents of the south to go about their lives, the IDF is protecting them. This [situation] is supposed to be my concern, you can be relaxed.”
However, as soon as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced the discovery of the tunnel, Hamas forces fired a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel. The Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense systems intercepted it. In response, the IDF launched an airstrike on a Hamas military facility in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported in the strikes.
Asked by reporters about the unusually restrained responses by the IDF, Ganz was blunt in his assessment of the situation.
“Things don’t happen without a response. I don’t work for Hamas, I retaliate based on my considerations. The equation has changed — no balloons and no rockets, nothing will be tolerated,” he said, referring to Palestinians in Gaza launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices into Israel.
The IDF is planning to “neutralize” the tunnel in the next few days. This is the 20th tunnel that it has discovered since the 2014 fighting between Israel and Hamas that claimed over 2,000 lives.
Crucially, there is speculation that Israel and Hamas are negotiating through intermediaries for a six-month ceasefire. If this is true, the lighter than usual Israeli response could be an attempt not to upset these efforts.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Ganz hinted that the Israelis were behind an airstrike on the Syrian countryside outside of Al-Quneitra. In the predawn airstrike, aircraft targeted suspected Iranian positions close to the Israeli border.
“I won’t go into who fired what last night. We won’t allow terrorist operatives from Hezbollah or Iran to set up on the Golan Heights border and we will do what is necessary to drive them out of there,” Ganz said.
The Syrian state-run media outlet SANA reported that purportedly Israeli jets hit a schoolhouse in the village of Al-Harah. It did not offer further details. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based watchdog on the Syrian Civil War said the following:
“Israeli rocket attacks which hit Al-Quneitra northern countryside in the early hours of Wednesday morning targeted a school hosting groups loyal to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian forces in Al-Huriyyah village, amid confirmed reports of casualties. It is worth [noting that] the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militias are considerably active in Al-Quneitra countryside which experienced repeated attacks in the past few years.”
While the IDF, per its official policy, rarely comments on airstrikes inside of Syria, it has admitted to many since the Syrian civil war began. Ganz’s comments seem to likewise reflect an Israeli responsibility.