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Israel reports tunnel system destruction amid violence

Israel withdrew all troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and has responded to attacks from within the strip since then with airstrikes and artillery.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Israeli Army said on Friday that it sent 160 aircraft into the violence-hit Gaza Strip to destroy a network of tunnels operated by Hamas, the Islamist party that controls enclave, as confusion and chaos continued between the two sides.

Army spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said about 40 tanks participated in the 40-minute mission, reports dpa news agency.

Conricus said the tunnel system, named Metro, operated as a sort of “city under the city”.

The extent of the damage to the system was unclear.

The tunnel network is vital in the Gaza Strip for shifting goods and people in and out.

Israel often targets the tunnels, which it says are used by Hamas to allow militants to access Israeli territory for attacks.

The two sides have entered another phase of aggression after growing tensions about access to holy sites in Jerusalem and efforts that possibly forced some Palestinian residents from their homes in East Jerusalem.

Militants in the Gaza Strip have attacked Israel predominantly with rockets.

About 1,800 have been fired at Israeli territory since Monday, and some 430 of them went down inside the strip.

Israel relies on its Iron Dome missile defence system to deal with those that pose a threat.

It claims that it has been about 90 per-cent effective in stopping the missiles this week.

So far, Israel has reported eight deaths due to the rockets out of Gaza.

The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip says the Israeli response has resulted in 119 deaths and 830 injuries.

Israel withdrew all troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and has responded to attacks from within the strip since then with airstrikes and artillery.

Thus, overnight reports that troops had re-entered the strip caused a stir.

But Conricus emphasized on Friday that, while tanks supported the airstrikes from Israeli territory during the mission against the tunnel network, no Israeli troops set foot inside Gaza.

The Army has since apologised for the miscommunication.

The rocket attacks from Gaza continued over into Friday.

Police said a house in Ashkelon was struck by a rocket.

Israeli and Hamas’ forces have engaged in three wars since 2008.

The last clash, in 2014, claimed the lives of 70 Israelis and 2,100 Palestinians.

The violence has also spilled over into clashes between Jewish and Arab residents of Israel.

Police reported detentions and attacks in the cities of Beersheba, Lod, Netanya, Qalansawe and Tel Aviv.

In Qalansawe, there were reports of a police station being set on fire.

Police have reported arresting 750 people in Israel amid this current wave of violence.