JERUSALEM, Israel – Israelis are confident they're winning "the tunnel battle" against Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip.
Over the weekend, Israeli pilots destroyed a tunnel in southern Rafah near the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza, not far from Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip.
The IDF has blown up numbers of smuggling tunnels near Rafah. It was in this same area in 2006 that a Hamas terror cell infiltrated Israel by tunnel, attacked an IDF outpost and abducted a soldier, sparking Operation Protective Edge, the IDF's 2014 incursion into Gaza.
Then-IDF soldier Gilad Shalit spent five years in a Gaza prison before being traded for more than 1,000 Palestinians serving time for terror-related offenses, including murder. Shalit's kidnapping, along with the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers, led to Operation Protective Edge.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all terror-related incidences in and out of Gaza, the IDF spokesman announced.
A Decade of Tunnels
The idea of infiltrating the Jewish state via cross-border tunnels is nothing new. It's been going on for more than a decade. At last, Israel has the technology to locate and destroy all the tunnels.
Gaza Division Southern Brigade Commander Col. Kobi Heler told area residents Sunday, "the IDF is far better prepared now than it was before Operation Protective Edge," YNet reported.
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett predicted the tunnel threat would cease to exist within a year and advised Gaza residents to shun terrorism and choose life instead.
"It is amazing to see the extent of the investment of Hamas's manpower resources in the tunnel project," Arutz7 quoted Bennett as saying. "This is their national project. I say here to the residents of Gaza: Choose between life above the ground and death under the ground. Invest in schools. Stop investing in terrorism."
In December, following a successful airstrike on a Hamas smuggling tunnel, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman predicted that within months, families living in Gaza-perimeter communities will be free of the threat posed by the tunnels.
Meanwhile, there's been some suspicion that Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese-based proxy, has contemplated building infiltration tunnels along Israel's northern border.