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IDF hits Hamas-linked subterranean site after Gaza rocket fire

Military says projectile intercepted by Iron Dome system; exchange follows uncovering of attack tunnel from Palestinian enclave that reached into Israeli territory

Illustrative: An Israeli missile launched from an Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is seen above Gaza City on November 13, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: An Israeli missile launched from an Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, is seen above Gaza City on November 13, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel struck a subterranean site linked to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the military said late Tuesday, after Palestinian terrorists in the coastal enclave fired a rocket toward Israeli territory.

The rocket, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, was launched hours after the military announced it had uncovered an attack tunnel emerging from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis that reached dozens of meters into Israel.

“IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters attacked underground infrastructure of the Hamas terror group in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “The attack was in response to the firing of a rocket launched from the territory of the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory earlier this evening.”

The Hamas-linked website al-Resalah said the strikes targeted Khan Younis and Deir el-Balah in central Gaza. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

No group in Gaza claimed responsibility for firing the rocket, which set off warning sirens in the border area.

Video from a security camera shared on social media appeared to show an Iron Dom missile being launched to intercept the rocket.

According to the IDF, military engineers located the concrete-lined tunnel from Gaza after an “indication” from the barrier system whose installation is being completed  on the border.

“The route [of the tunnel] was located as part of the ongoing efforts to find and neutralize tunnels and thanks to the technological and [intelligence] collection capabilities of the barrier,” the IDF said in a statement.

The military said the tunnel did not penetrate Israel’s new underground barrier and did not pose a threat to communities in the area.

The statement did not specify who dug and built the tunnel, but the IDF reiterated it holds Hamas responsible as the Palestinian enclave’s ruler.

This photo provided by the IDF on October 20, 2020, shows soldiers operating along the border with the southern Gaza Strip, after a tunnel entering Israeli territory was found in the area. (Israel Defense Forces)

The discovery of the tunnel came as tensions with the Strip have ramped up amid ongoing threats by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Strip to exact revenge should a hunger-striking security prisoner held by Israel die. Maher al-Akhras, who has not eaten for 86 days, is suspected by Israel of being a PIJ operative.

On Monday morning, the official Palestinian news outlet SAFA reported that al-Akhras was in very serious condition as a result of his hunger strike.

On Friday night, at least one rocket was fired at southern Israel from the Strip, striking an open field where it caused neither damage nor injury. The IDF did not immediately retaliate, but a defense official said the matter would not go unanswered.

Palestinians receive financial aid payments from Qatar at a post office in Gaza City, on June 27, 2020. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Last week, Channel 12 reported that Israel and Hamas had reached a truce agreement mediated by Qatar that will see quiet on the southern border for a period of six months. As part of the agreement, Qatar will transfer $100 million to Hamas in a deal coordinated with Doha by Mossad head Yossi Cohen, alongside the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), according to the report.

However, according to a Channel 13 report Tuesday, Qatar will only give $60 million to Gaza through the end of the year.

Mohammad al-Emadi, Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, has regularly visited Gaza in recent years with Israeli approval, bringing funds to the Strip for purchasing fuel, paying civil servants and helping Gaza’s poor. The most recent round of funds was set to run out within weeks, Channel 12 said.

Aaron Boxerman, Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel contributed to this report.

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