Israel 'can hit tunnels again'

2009-01-22 16:10
Jerusalem - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warned on Thursday that Israel reserved the right to attack smuggling tunnels on the border of Egypt and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

"For the tunnels, nothing will be as it was before," Livni told public radio.

"Things must be clear - Israel reserves the right to react militarily against the tunnels once and for all.

"If we have to act, we will do so, we will exercise our right to legitimate defence, we will not leave our fate... to the Egyptians, nor to the Europeans nor to the Americans," she said.

During its massive 22-day offensive on Hamas in Gaza, Israel bombed hundreds of tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying 150 of them, according to Defence Minister Ehud Barak who on Wednesday issued a warning similar to Livni's.

"If we are forced to, there will be more attacks," Barak said on public television.

"During the operation that we have carried out in the Gaza Strip we have destroyed 150 tunnels, including some which were targeted several times," he said.

The tunnels are used to smuggle supplies and weapons into the coastal strip that Israel has kept sealed to all but basic humanitarian supplies since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

Israel declared a ceasefire to its offensive after securing guarantees from Cairo and Washington on securing the enclave's porous border with Egypt.

In the days following Sunday's ceasefire, hundreds of Palestinians have set about repairing the tunnels damaged by Israeli bombings.

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