Itongadol.- Hamas has begun work to rebuild its network of defensive underground tunnels, and Israel is watching closely for signs that it is working on new cross-border offensive tunnels as well, Defense Minister Moshe Ya\’alon said on Tuesday.
Ya\’alon: Hamas rebuilding defensive tunnels; Israel looking for new digging of offensive tunnels
Defensive tunnels enable Hamas members to move within the Gaza Strip underground, transfer weapons, and coordinate hit and run attacks on IDF units during clashes. Offensive tunnels are cross-border structures designed to allow Hamas to insert murder squads into southern Israel to carry out terrorist atrocities, and attacks on IDF positions.
Under no circumstances will Israelis have to get used to a "drizzle of rockets" anywhere, "not in the north and not in the south," Ya\’alon vowed.
Israel retaliated to Friday\’s Gazan rocket attack by launching an air strike a cement factory in southern Gaza, used by Hamas to reconstruct its underground tunnels.
"What we saw was that Hamas acted immediately to arrest those who fired the rockets. In other words, Hamas does not want an escalation. I hope this situation remains. It means that Hamas is deterred in the Gaza Strip. I don\’t think it has interest in an escalation. Nevertheless, we have to be prepared for all developments. We certainly see reconstruction of defensive tunnels, there is such activity. With regards to offensive tunnels, we are following all developments." Addressing the northern sector, Ya\’alon said he was pleased it has remained quiet, and that northern Israel is flourishing.
"This is a result of the deterrence that is in place principally against the armed Hezbollah in Lebanon. We will do our best to safeguard this quiet in the north… on the Syrian side of the border, they understand our red lines, and on the Lebanese side of the border, they understand our strength. There is a quiet here that I hope will last, but nevertheless, communities here have to be prepared for the possibility that the situation will change, like in other places in the state of Israel." Referring to the rise of the Islamic State, Ya\’alon said the organization had become a global phenomenon due to the dissemination of its jihadi idea via the internet.
"Here in Israel, the phenomenon is marginal. When we talk about a few dozen Arab Israelis who left to fight there – it\’s marginal. The defense establishment is keeping a close eye on this phenomenon, which can radiate on to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria in Gaza, and we are providing the suitable security response to this,\’ he stated.
The al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria is not approaching the Israeli border at this time, Ya\’alon said. "Along our border fence, as of now, there are militias that are linked to the Free Syrian Army. They are not extremist Islamists, and they enjoy our humanitarian assistance. They know, it seems, how to make sure that extremist Islamic elements don\’t get to the fence," the defense minister added.
On Sunday, Ya\’alon said Hamas arrested members of a global jihadi organization in the Gaza Strip for firing a rocket at southern Israel on Friday. "It turns out that it\’s one of the global jihad organizations," said Ya\’alon, referring to Friday\’s rocket attack on Eshkol.
"Its totally clear that Hamas is responsible for fire from the Gaza Strip, and that\’s why we took the trouble to pass on messages, through Egypt, to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to respond through a strike on a cement factory that we learned creates material for use in tunnels," Ya\’alon added.