The Israeli military recently destroyed a tunnel dug by Hamas that extended several meters into the sea to permit naval commandos to emerge undetected on the shore, it said Sunday.
“They tried to make it possible to covertly move from land to sea in order to perpetrate attacks inside Israel,” a senior Israel Air Force officer said, adding that it was Israeli naval intelligence that led to the discovery of the tunnel. “We have known about this tunnel for a few months and decided that this was the right time for us to destroy it.”
The tunnel’s exit was found a few meters from the beach potentially allowing Hamas operatives to evade Israeli troops. The tunnel was located about three kilometers (less than two miles) from the border with Israel. According to the officer, under the cover of night and “with the means they have today, including oxygen and mechanized equipment," Hamas divers could have "certainly enter Israel in a relatively short time." He added that Hamas “had built up these capabilities at the same time as their other underground capabilities.” The officer said that the army’s response attacks last week were “the opportunity from our point of view to strike this tunnel. The IDF does not have a light trigger finger but where we identify threats, we act,” he said.
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Hamas has tried in the past to build a network of similar tunnels that would allow its naval commandos to emerge at sea undetected and the army has not ruled out the possibility that there are other tunnels of this type.
Hamas naval commandos, numbering a few dozen operatives, are considered the organization’s flagship unit. The Israel Defense Forces believes that Hamas was able to conduct training in the tunnel, but it is not known to have been used to launch attacks.