Residents in south: Hamas digging near Gaza border

Locals in Netiv Ha’asara kibbutz report excavations near fence, say Islamist group’s flags seen on dirt mounds

The Israeli border fence with Gaza (David Buimovitch/Flash90)
The Israeli border fence with Gaza (David Buimovitch/Flash90)

Sightings of what appear to be massive excavation operations along the Gaza Strip border fence have raised serious concerns among residents of the south, following reports that Hamas flags were placed by local Palestinians atop mounds of dirt at the digging sites.

Over the past several days, residents of Netiv Ha’asara, a cooperative agricultural community located near Israel’s border with the Strip, reported a number of instances where bulldozers and trucks were spotted conducting heavy excavation activity close to the security fence, according to Israel Radio.

The residents further reported that a 200-meter-long dirt mound had been raised in the area, with Palestinians workers periodically raising emblems of the Islamist terrorist group above it.

According to the residents of Netiv Ha’asara, which is just 50 meters from Israel’s border with the Strip, the recent digging is the first such operation to have taken place since the conclusion of this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas.

An IDF spokesperson was not available for comment on the report.

On Saturday, Hamas informed Israel that it was not interested in an escalation in the Gaza Strip, and would crack down on the Palestinians who fired a rocket at the Eshkol region on Friday, the Palestinian al-Quds daily reported.

Hamas conveyed its message to Israel through an Egyptian mediator, emphasizing that it did not stand behind the rocket attack, the report said — the third of its kind since a ceasefire agreement in August ended the most recent conflagration in the Strip.

The terror group pledged to locate those responsible for firing the projectile, which drew a retaliatory Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. The air raid targeted a Hamas factory that was producing cement to rebuild the attack tunnels destroyed and damaged in last summer’s war, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The airstrikes Friday night were the first by Israel on the Palestinian enclave since the summer truce that ended the 50-day war between the sides.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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