Israeli warplanes opened fire on the southern Gaza Strip early March 12, striking two targets near the Egyptian border. There were no immediate reports of injury in the attack, which an Israeli military spokesman said targeted sites in Rafah and Khan Younis. De facto authorities in Gaza told the independent Ma’an News Agency that the strikes targeted a smuggling tunnel along the Rafah border and a warehouse used to store oxygen tanks in Khan Younis. The Israeli military spokesman told Ma’an that the Rafah tunnel was used for smuggling weapons and the Khan Younis warehouse was actually a bomb-making lab. The attacks came after a projectile was fired at southern Israel, causing damage, the official said, adding, “We will not accept the firing of rockets at Israel and will response harshly to any attempts to disrupt the calm.” A similar strike targeted tunnels near Rafah on March 3. (Ma’an News Agency, March 12)
The new air-strikes came as the UN under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, warned of an impending humanitarian disaster if Egypt succeeds in blocking the tunnels that pass under its border into the Gaza Strip. Holmes said that as dangerous as the hundreds of tunnels that bypass the Israeli blockade are, Gaza would have difficulty surviving if Egypt succeeds in blocking them, as they are a conduit for badly-needed food, medicine and commercial goods. He repeated calls for Israel to end its blockade of the Palestinian territory.
“If those tunnels were blocked, however undesirable they may be, and however undesirable the effect they’re having on the Gazan society and Gazan economy, the situation without the tunnels would be completely unsustainable,” said Holmes, who visited the region for four days earlier this month. (AP via Ha’aretz, March 12)