Palestinian media: Israeli jets strike tunnel in southern Gaza

Palestinian media: Israeli jets strike tunnel in southern Gaza

IDF says aircraft targeted ‘terror infrastructure,’ but won’t confirm on its nature; attack follows Israeli announcement that Kerem Shalom Crossing would be closed Sunday

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet during a training exercise (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet during a training exercise (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Palestinian media reported that Israeli jets targeted a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt late Saturday night.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that its aircraft carried out strikes on “terror infrastructure” in the southern Rafah region of the Gaza Strip, but would not comment on what exactly was bombed.

In general, tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula are used to transport commercial goods and, in some cases, weaponry into the Strip, as a way to circumvent the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

In its statement, the army added, “The Hamas terror organization is accountable for all activity in and from the Gaza strip.”

The attack came shortly after the military announced it would not be opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, following a “situational assessment.”

UN trucks carrying building materials for projects funded by UNRWA arrive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing on December 10, 2013. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The army said the decision to not open the crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of goods-bearing trucks pass through it each day, was made after extensive rioting took place along the security fence surrounding the coastal enclave on Friday.

Once a rare move, this will be the second time Kerem Shalom is punitively closed in under a month, as Israel seeks to force the ruling Hamas terrorist group to return quiet to the Gaza Strip.

On December 14, following multiple rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel also shut down the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which is used for goods, along with Erez Crossing, through which people enter and exit the Strip.

The Erez Crossing opened a day later, and Kerem Shalom was reopened on December 17.

Last week, the IDF struck what many assumed to be a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, following a series of mortar attacks.

In its statement at the time, the army referred to the target of the attack on January 4 as “significant terror infrastructure.”

According to official Palestinian media, that “infrastructure” was farmland in the southern Gaza Strip, prompting many to assume that it was, in fact, a tunnel beneath the field.

Last year, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot responded to criticism that the military was targeting “sand dunes and empty bunkers” in its strikes in Gaza, telling the Knesset that the IDF is actively thwarting the tunnels and publicly acknowledging for the first time that the army has the technology to do so.

“Every missile or shell we fired was at a valuable target, at underground targets,” Eisenkot said in March “We have developed a capability that allows us to strike them.”

On Friday, approximately 1,000 Palestinians took part in violent demonstrations in four separate locations along the security fence surrounding Gaza, rolling burning tires and throwing rocks at the barrier and the soldiers on the other side, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, “troops fired live rounds selectively towards three main instigators, who posed a threat to IDF soldiers and the security fence,” the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas during the riots.

On Saturday, the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison to the Palestinians warned residents of the Gaza Strip that the Hamas terror organization was using them in its quest for violence against Israel.

“Hamas terrorists send young people to riot at the [Gaza border]… while hiding behind them and claiming that these riots are spontaneous and peaceful,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said on Facebook.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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