March 17th an explosive detonated on the Israeli/Gaza border, with no casualties and minimal damage to the security fence separating Gaza and Israel. The Israeli Defense Forces responded with tank fire shelling a Hamas outpost just east of Gaza City, where one person was slightly injured.
On March 18th, the Israeli air force destroyed an underground Hamas facility located in the Gaza strip and a separate tunnel which ran from southern Gaza into Israel.
The tunnel was destroyed from within Israeli territory, using a compound developed for the purpose. According to the IDF Hamas was seeking to reconnect an older tunnel which was destroyed in 2014 to a new section of tunnel in southern Gaza.
This is the fourth tunnel Israel has destroyed since October of 2017. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Hamas should invest money in the welfare of the people in Gaza because the Israelis intended to destroy the Hamas tunnel project “by the end of the year.”
In 2014 Israel launched Operation Protective Edge which was a war between Israel and Gaza. It started due to three Israeli teenagers being kidnapped and killed by Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Israel launched a military operation to find the three boys and arrested hundreds of Hamas members. Hamas responded by launching rocket attacks out of Gaza. During the conflict Israel had placed a high priority on the tunnel threat when Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel killing 5 Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli military said it did not know the scope of the tunnel system until troops were put in the area, that year Israel destroyed 32 tunnels.
The tunnels were established to undermine Israeli control of borders to and from the Gaza strip. The tunnels ran from south Gaza into Egypt, with Hamas controlling tunnel access for a profit. Weapons, people, and cars were smuggled through the tunnels as well as Egyptian gasoline due to Israeli fuel being too expensive.
Egypt’s prior President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were sympathetic towards Hamas. But after Morsi was ousted in 2013 and the beginning of a Muslim Brotherhood-backed insurgency against now Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian Army has targeted and destroyed many cross-border smuggling tunnels.
The Islamic State (IS) is currently fighting the Egyptian military in the Sinai Peninsula and much of their success has come from trade with Hamas through the tunnel system. The IS smuggled weapons into Gaza and Hamas helped train IS fighters. But in early 2018 IS declared war on Hamas, publicly ending their relationship.
In January of 2018 Israel unveiled plans to have a 40-mile-long underground wall built around Gaza. Israeli military officials said this wall will stop Hamas from launching attacks from the tunnels into southern Israel. The wall is expected to take two years to build and cost 500 million euros.