The Israeli army thwarted a large-scale infiltration attempt along the Gaza border, during which 13 armed Palestinians emerged from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border at dawn Thursday, an army spokesperson said.
The spokesperson described the attack as in line with a series of other thwarted attacks over the past 10 days of warfare, including two infiltration attempts from the sea near Kibbutz Zikim, a tunnel near Kerem Shalom, and a drone attack earlier this week.
The IDF action that stopped the infiltration attempt before it was sprung “was obviously a huge success,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
The gunmen, he said, emerged from the tunnel early Thursday some 250 meters inside Israel. Lying flat on the ground, in an open area two kilometers from Kibbutz Sufa in the Eshkol region, the 13 armed men were spotted by what Lerner termed “different sensors.”
Realizing that they had been discovered, they attempted to run back underground but were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said some had been hit but he could not state how many.
Israeli military sources said the gunmen evidently planned to attack the kibbutz, killing and possibly kidnapping civilians.
The tunnel is part of a network of underground channels, laboriously dug, as offensive lanes into Israel. In June 2006 two Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush that began via a tunnel in the same region, and a third, Gilad Shalit, was captured and taken back to Gaza. His exchange, five and a half years later, for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, is considered one of Hamas’s crowning achievements.
In the years since that assault several complex tunnels have been discovered, including, most recently, one that was found and bombed on the eve of Operation Protective Edge.
Lerner said he did not believe the attack was a significant shift in the tide of the 10-day-old campaign.
At 10 on Thursday morning a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire is to go into effect.
Hours after the tunnel attack was thwarted, the IDF published footage of the incident: