DPA - Five Hamas militants have been killed in a tunnel collapse east of Gaza City, a Gaza security official confirmed Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that they had embarked on a "military mission" near the border with Israel. He gave no more details. 

The official said that the tunnel had been bombarded on Monday night by Israeli jets and badly damaged. It caved in when the five members of the Qassam Brigades - Hamas' armed wing - went inside, he said.

IDF efforts

In March, a tunnel that extended some 700 meters into Israel was discovered near the Gaza Strip border- far deeper than the other three such tunnels discovered by Israel in the past year and a half.

A tunnel extending 700 meters into Israel could bring terrorists close to Israeli communities near the Gaza border. Kibbutz Nirim is only 1.5 kilometers from Gaza; Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha is 2.5 kilometers from Gaza.

After spending several days trying to uncover all the tunnel’s branches, IDF soldiers concluded that it mainly consisted of a single central axis. This finding reinforced the IDF’s assessment that the tunnel was built by Hamas for the purpose of carrying out a terror attack in Israel.

The IDF is investing great effort in locating tunnels, both by deploying dedicated intelligence teams to investigate them and by conducting physical searches, especially after heavy rains.