Middle East

Israel vows to destroy all Gaza attack tunnels by year end

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has announced his country’s strategy to destroy tunnels used to launch attacks on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip.

“By the end of 2018, we will eliminate all the Hamas attack tunnels … we may even manage to do this sooner, but the task is to destroy them all by the end of the year,” Lieberman said Sunday.

“Destroying the network of offensive tunnels is an essential component in our policy of systematically damaging the strategic abilities of Hamas.”

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced Sunday that it had destroyed a cross-border tunnel dug by Hamas to stage attacks in Israel. IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israeli airstrikes hit the Gazan-side of the “terror tunnel” on Saturday.

‘Breach of Israel’s sovereignty’

In a series of tweets, the IDF slammed so-called “terror tunnels” used to commit attacks in Israel, making clear that it holds Hamas responsible for their creation and use.

“This is a severe breach of Israel’s sovereignty. Hamas is responsible for the consequences and chooses time after time to jeopardize the welfare of the citizens of Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement.

Although many of the tunnels leading from Gaza into Egypt and Israel are used to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip, which is subject to a blockade from Israel, Palestinian militant groups have also used them for attacks on Israeli soil, most notably during the 2014 conflict.

Rising tensions

Tensions have been notably high between Palestinian authorities and Israel after US President Donald Trump took the decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital last month.

The move was criticized by the international community, including Germany and the EU, as undermining the peace process aimed at implementing a political solution to the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

However, Yoav Galant, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said Israel is “not looking for confrontation with Hamas.” The Islamist group, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, has been accused of turning a blind eye toward other radical militant groups operating in the Palestinian territory.

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