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IDF said to have foiled major Hamas attack in hours before ceasefire

TV says IDF identified and killed several terrorists attempting to infiltrate through tunnel and kill soldiers; Israel also said to have delayed truce to carry out major operation

Palestinians pray by the bodies of members of the Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas, who died in Israeli bombardment of a tunnel, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 21, 2021. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinians pray by the bodies of members of the Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas, who died in Israeli bombardment of a tunnel, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 21, 2021. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Israel Defense Force foiled a major attack by Hamas in the hours before the ceasefire went into effect, Channel 12 reported Friday, speculating that had the attack succeeded it could have derailed the truce.

According to the unsourced report, the IDF identified a Hamas cell as it made its way through an underground tunnel, apparently intent on emerging close to the Israeli border and attacking soldiers.  The air force carried out a precision strike on the tunnel, killing the gunmen, the report said.

The report noted that with Israel’s newly completed underground barrier, the cell would not have been able to get into Israel and attack civilians, but would rather have emerged close to the border fence and fired on troops deployed at the border.

The IDF declined to comment on the report, but the TV channel noted that the information had been approved for release by the IDF censor.

Heavy machinery works on a massive underground barrier on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza on September 8, 2016. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

The ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m. Friday, hours after the cabinet approved the move.

Earlier, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said the military had passed a message to Hamas that if it conducted a large attack in the hours before the truce, the IDF would retaliate with a massive airstrike on dozens of targets.

According to Zilberman, Israeli jets and other aircraft were kept in the air, hovering over Gaza, in the hours before the ceasefire to carry out this threat if necessary.

Also Friday, Channel 12 reported that the ceasefire had been delayed by up to 48 hours to allow the IDF to carry out a final mission.

The report said it had no details on what that mission might have been and noted that Hamas may not even be aware it happened. If it was, it was not acknowledging it.

The report said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the strike in a press conference earlier Friday.

Netanyahu said that not everything regarding the outcome and impact of the Israeli strikes is yet known to the public, or even to Hamas: “We did daring and innovative things, without getting dragged into an unnecessary misadventure.”

Netanyahu also said that although the terror group wanted to carry out many cross-border attacks — including at the tail-end of the operation — it was thwarted by Israel’s subterranean barrier, which has electronic sensors, which detected terrorists and enabled the IDF to “destroy” them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement at a press conference after the Gaza ceasefire, Tel Aviv, May 21, 2021. At his side is a screen showing Gaza terror commanders killed in Operation Guardian of the Walls (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Aboveground, he said, Israel killed over 200 terrorists, including 25 senior officials.

“And those who didn’t die, know today that we can reach them everywhere – above or below ground,” the prime minister said, calling it “an achievement no military has ever achieved.”

Hamas may be bragging as its leaders emerge from their tunnels hideouts, he said, “but they realize the destruction they brought upon themselves inside Gaza… they know we set them back years.”

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