Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza that his country will retaliate with "greater force" than deployed in the 2014 Gaza war if cross-border tunnels are used to attack Israel.
Hamas has built a sophisticated network of tunnels that it has used to penetrate Israel in order to carry out attacks against civilians and soldiers.
Israelis living near Gaza have reported hearing tunneling sounds under their homes.
"We are operating systematically and calmly against all threats, including those from Hamas, both with defensive and offensive means, and of course in the event we are attacked by tunnels in Gaza we will operate with great force against Hamas, with much greater force than what we used in Operation Protective Edge," Netanyahu said in a speech to diplomats last night, referring to the 50-day war with Gaza gunmen in 2014 by its military name.
"I think that is understood in the region, its understood in the world. I hope we won't need to do it but our abilities both defensive and offensive are developing rapidly and I wouldn't recommend anyone to try us," he said.
A senior Hamas leader boasted on Friday that Gaza militants dig tunnels and test rockets to attack Israel "every day." Ismail Haniyeh spoke at the funeral of seven militants who died this week when a tunnel from Gaza to Israel collapsed while they were repairing it. He said the tunnels are a "preparation" for war with Israel and boasted Hamas has "has built tunnels two times more than Vietnam tunnels."
The 2014 Gaza war was sparked by after a chain of events stemming from the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank by Hamas gunmen and the kidnapping of a Palestinian teenager who was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack.
Israel arrested hundreds of Hamas members in raids in the West Bank, prompting militant groups in Gaza to escalate rocket attacks on Israeli cities. More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed during the fighting. In Israel, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Parts of Gaza were devastated in the fighting.
Earlier yesterday, a Palestinian opened fire at a West Bank checkpoint and wounded three soldiers before he was shot and killed by troops, the military said.
Palestinians identified the gunman as Amjad Sukkari, a 34-year-old policeman who worked as a bodyguard for the Palestinian attorney general.
Posts on his Facebook page from just hours before the attacks read "your mourning will be victorious," ''there is nothing worth living for on this earth as long as the occupation strangles our breaths" and "everyday someone dies, I may be the next."
Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers praised the shooting attack, the latest in four months of near-daily Palestinian assaults on Israeli civilians and soldiers.