Israel now has 'technological umbrella of steel underground'

General says ‘Jewish brains’ have found solution to eliminate all Hamas tunnels

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai warns Gazans that ‘Israeli genius’ has come up with a way to prevent underground threat to Israel

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Defense Ministry's Coordinator of the Government's Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. (Screenshot)
The Defense Ministry's Coordinator of the Government's Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. (Screenshot)

An IDF general on Sunday said the Israeli military, helped by the “Jewish brain,” had devised a solution that would see all of Hamas’s cross-border tunnels into Israel destroyed.

Speaking in Arabic to US-based satellite TV station Alhurra, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that “the Israeli genius along with the Jewish brain have come up with a solution to all of the terrorists’ tunnels.”

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai in an interview with US-based satellite TV station Alhurra on Jan 14, 2018 (Screenshot)

“Just like there’s ‘Iron Dome’ for the air, there’s a technological umbrella of steel underground,” he said. “I want to send a message to everyone who is digging or gets too close to the tunnels: As you’ve seen in the past two months, these tunnels bring only death,” he added (Hebrew/Arabic link) according to translations of the interview.

Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces announced it had destroyed a border-crossing Hamas attack tunnel, the third in recent months, that penetrated hundreds of meters into both Israeli and Egyptian territory from the Gaza Strip, in an airstrike on Saturday night.

During a visit to the area later in the day, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir vowed the IDF would continue to destroy more tunnels in the coming months, as the Defense Ministry completes the construction of a barrier around the Gaza Strip designed to prevent underground penetration into Israeli territory.

An attack tunnel that was bombed by Israeli jets on January 13, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during his visit to India, also asserted that Israel was systemically working to destroy the Gaza tunnels so that Palestinian terrorist groups “won’t mess with us.”

It was the third tunnel entering Israeli territory destroyed by the IDF in under three months. On October 30, the army blew up an attack tunnel that belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, in the process killing 12 members of the organization, along with two Hamas operatives. On December 10, the military demolished a second tunnel, this one controlled by Hamas.

Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Sunday that the tunnel belonged to the Hamas terrorist group, which rules the Strip.

He added that the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset,” due to the fact that it ran underneath the Kerem Shalom crossing, as well as below the gas and diesel pipelines into the Strip and a nearby IDF post.

Conricus’s comments marked the first time an army official has publicly acknowledged that the military has the capability to successfully strike tunnels from the air, though others have alluded to it in the past.

The army spokesperson credited the discovery and destruction of the tunnel to a combination of “cutting-edge” technology and intelligence.

A Palestinian security man closes the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, which had been the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, after it was closed by Israel following the discovery of smuggling tunnels underneath the crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Shortly after the Saturday night strike on the tunnel, the military announced it would not be opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of trucks transporting goods into the Gaza Strip each day, and acts as a major source of humanitarian aid to the beleaguered coastal enclave, which is subject to a blockade by both Israel and Egypt.

According to IDF figures, in 2017, over half a million tons of food entered the Strip through Kerem Shalom, along with 3.3 million tons of construction equipment and 12,000 tons of agricultural equipment.

It is the second time Kerem Shalom has been closed in under a month.

Israel shut down the crossing on December 14 following multiple rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, along with Erez Crossing, through which people enter and exit the Strip. Erez reopened a day later, and Kerem Shalom was reopened on December 17.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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