News / Middle East

    Netanyahu Warns Hamas on Use of Tunnels to Attack Israel

    FILE - In this July 25, 2014, photo, an Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.
    FILE - In this July 25, 2014, photo, an Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.
    VOA News

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday if Hamas dares to attack Israel through cross-border tunnels from Gaza, Israel will retaliate with force greater than the 2014 war.

    "I think that is understood in the region. It's 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," Netanyahu told a group of diplomats.

    A top Hamas official boasted Friday that the group has built "twice the number of resistance tunnels" that were built during the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s.

    He said hundreds of Hamas members are working to build tunnels to free what he described as holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem - a site Jews revere as the Temple Mount.

    Israelis living near the border with the Gaza Strip have been complaining of underground drilling and construction noises near their homes.

    Israeli forces bombarded Hamas and militant Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014 in response to Palestinian rocket fire.

    The fighting killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and obliterated entire neighborhoods. About 70 Israeli soldiers and a handful of civilians died.

    Also in an historic decision Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a so-called egalitarian Jewish prayer space near the Western Wall, where Jews from all over the world of both sexes and religious beliefs can pray together.

    A group of Israeli and diaspora Jews called "Women of the Wall" had been demanding access to the prayer space for nearly 30 years, unhappy with Orthodox control over who was allowed to pray at the site.

    The Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site. It is the last scrap of the wall that surrounded the ancient temple. Under Orthodox tradition, men and women are segregated when they pray.

    Under the new rules, men and women - Orthodox and reform Jews - can pray together at a special site known as Robinson's Arch.

    Women of the Wall says the Israeli government acknowledges full equality and autonomy. Netanyahu said it is a "fair and creative solution" that will unite the Jewish people.

    Many Orthodox Jews, including Cabinet members who voted against the move, condemn it as an affront to tradition.

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