The Israeli army said it destroyed a Hamas attack tunnel that originated in the Gaza Strip and crossed into Israeli territory over the weekend. According to the information cleared for publication Sunday morning, the tunnel was several kilometers long and military intelligence services believe it was part of a wider tunnel network.
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The tunnel was located in the north of the Strip, near a site along the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians have been protesting for the past few weeks. The Israel Defense Forces had been aware of the tunnel and decided to destroy it based on operational considerations. Hamas’ excavation of the tunnel began after the Gaza war in the summer of 2014 and it reached some 20 meters into Israeli territory. The military feared that Hamas would use it to carry out terror attacks in Israel under the cover of the protests.
The tunnel was destroyed by pumping materials into it that render it useless and do not allow for its reconstruction. This is the fifth tunnel crossing into Israel that the IDF has destroyed in recent months, and the eighth altogether.
The army statement said that locating the tunnel destroyed over the weekend, as well as those exposed in recent months, was thanks to a combination of reconnaissance work and newly developed technological capabilities. "Two years ago, a lab was built in the Gaza division, designed to discover and identify tunnels," it said.
Deemed the "technological arm" in tunnel discovery, the lab is said to employ "innovative geological research" by physicists, engineers and geologists.
The lab's staff is said to be closely working with the IDF's engineering and intelligence corps, as well other units, from the tunnel's initial discovery to its eventual destruction.
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Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated the IDF for the action, saying the tunnel was the "longest and deepest exposed so far," and cost Hamas millions of dollars. He also addressed residents of Gaza Strip on Twitter, telling them Hamas was "drowning" their aid money in the sand.
"Citizens of Gaza, Hamas is burning your money on tunnels going nowhere. We'll get our hands on all of them," his statement concluded.
Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz also commended the army, saying, "This is the first tunnel to be exposed and destroyed on the northern sector of Gaza since Operation Protective Edge [in 2014] and clearly shows: The era of the tunnel threat is at an end."
“The thwarting of the tunnel in Gaza is part of the IDF’s concept that clashes with Hamas will not remain only around the fence. Hamas will pay a price for the events in the area of the fence,” said IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. “When four Islamic Jihad activists are blown up by explosives on their way to demonstrations near the fence, it shows that these protests are intended for terror activities,” he added.
On Saturday, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization Al-Quds Brigades reported that four of its fighters were killed in an explosion during training near Rafah in the Gaza Strip. According to initial reports, the four were said to be killed by Israeli army fire.
Friday marked the third week of protests along the Gaza border known as the March of Return, which are set to continue until May 15, the scheduled date for the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. One Palestinian was killed and 233 were wouned by live Israeli fire as more than 10,000 protested along the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, burning tires and Israeli flags, the Gaza Health Ministry said.