JERUSALEM—The Kerem Shalom crossing, on the southernmost tip of the Gaza Strip, was reopened Tuesday morning, after being closed on Saturday to allow the demolition of a terrorist attack tunnel discovered underneath the crossing.
Roughly 1,000 trucks with goods destined for Gaza pass through Kerem Shalom every day. The crossing is the major transit route into the Strip.
On Saturday night, Israeli jets struck a tunnel dug by Hamas, which connected Gaza and Egypt and passed underneath the Kerem Shalom crossing. This is the third smuggling tunnel discovered and demolished by Israel in recent months. On October 30, the army blew up an attack tunnel that belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, in the process killing 12 members of the organization, along with two Hamas operatives. On December 10, the military demolished a second tunnel, this one controlled by Hamas.
The tunnel, which was constructed differently from most tunnels in Gaza, began in the city of Rafah and crossed into Israel under the Kerem Shalom Crossing, through which hundreds of trucks ordinarily cross into the coastal enclave with goods from Israel each day, he said.
“We understand this tunnel belongs to Hamas,” an IDF spokesperson said. He added that the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset.”
“This is a severe breach of Israel’s sovereignty,” an IDF spokesperson wrote in a statement issued after the destruction, adding that, “Hamas is responsible for the consequences and chooses time after time to jeopardize the welfare of the citizens of Gaza.”
‘’Any attempt to harm Israel’s citizens or its sovereignty will be met with force and determination.The IDF will continue to act to thwart terrorist organizations’ efforts under the ground, wherever it is needed,” the spokesman said.
Commander of the Southern Brigade Col. Kobi Heller said that digging a terror tunnel under the only goods terminal is an example of Hamas dealing in terror rather than rehabilitating the Gaza Strip. “The aim is to maintain open and regular passage of goods for the benefit of Gaza Strip residents, and at the same time we will continue to act to put an end to terror tunnels.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred earlier to the ongoing threat from Gaza and especially to the terror tunnels. “We’re not approaching the point when fear of an escalation or confrontation would affect our handling of the tunnels,” Netanyahu said, adding that he supports easing restrictions on Gaza’s population.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot made the destruction of Palestinian terror groups’ attack tunnel a top priority for the military, following the 2014 Gaza war, which saw extensive use of tunnels by the Hamas terrorist group.
Over the past year, the army has been constructing an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip that is meant to block attempts to dig into Israel.
Military officials have noted that more tunnels will likely be destroyed in coming months as the barrier nears completion.
Yona Schwitzer from TPS contributed to this report.