Gaza tensions calm but Israel to continue fight against tunnel threat


Tension in the Gaza region eased over the weekend following violence last week – the most intense since Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014.

Friday was the fourth consecutive day on which mortars were fired on Israeli troops at the border working to locate and uncover underground tunnels. Last week the Israeli troops discovered the second major tunnel underneath the border within the past month. Hamas is openly rebuilding the subterranean tunnel network which was deployed to launch numerous attacks on Israeli targets during the 2014 conflict. Israel’s Air Force responded to the mortar fire with several sorties which targeted Hamas infrastructure sites.

Early Saturday, two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, one landing in the Eshkol region without causing injury or damage, the other near the border fence. Warning sirens were sounded throughout the area. Israel responded with an air strike on two strategic Hamas sites near Khan Younis. There have been no further incidents and Israeli farmers were allowed to return to fields within one kilometre of the border.

On Friday, Palestinian media reports indicated that a truce had been agreed, while Hamas chief in Gaza Ismael Haniyeh said: “We are not calling for a new war” against Israel. However, Haniyeh warned: “We will not allow incursions or imposing facts on the ground by Israel in Gaza,” saying that Israeli troops had operated beyond the border by “150 to 199 meters on the pretext of searching for tunnels.”

However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear yesterday that the effort to locate and destroy tunnels designed to attack Israel will continue. He said: “Israel will continue to operate as long as necessary to detect [tunnels] and thwart [attacks]. We will spare no resources or efforts… We are not looking for an escalation, but we will not be deterred from doing what is necessary to maintain security.”