For the second time in a month, IDF forces have located a tunnel stretching from southern Gaza into Israel. The additional tunnel was found on Thursday along the Gaza border.
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IDF forces operated recently in the area and beyond the fence, in the perimeter zone, where they found the tunnel.
The tunnel is at a depth of 26-28 meters, and the IDF still hasn't detected its entire path, except for the fact that it starts in Gaza and ends on the Israeli side of the southern border region.
"This is a subterranean violation of Israeli territory. The IDF's role is to prevent such a violation," a senior IDF officer said.
"We don't know to say if it's from before Operation Protective Edge or afterwards, but it is in good and usable condition," the officer said.
Both tunnels found were within a distance of several hundred meters to a kilometer away from residential areas.
The IDF announced it had found the first tunnel about three weeks ago. It was the first subterranean passage that led into Israel, located since 2014's Operation Protective Edge.
The first tunnel was found in the area of Kibbutz Holit, near the southern Gaza Strip. Its distance from the border was estimated at several hundred meters. The IDF blew it up two weeks ago.
The tunnel itself was dug before the war of two years ago. The new tunnel is several kilometers away from where that tunnel stood.
The army knows to say that Hamas has renewed tunnel activity since the war, but that the last tunnel that was found already existed before the fighting began.
t would appear that theIDF destroyed part of it during the fighting, but Hamas succeeded in digging a bypass. The IDF estimates that the tunnel was intended for Hamas to use for an attack.
As published by Haaretz, even after the first tunnel was found, IDF forces continued to operate around the strip in search of more tunnels.
About 100 machines are at work seeking out tunnels and Southern Command's working assumption has been that there are six more tunnels inside Israel.
Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot defined the IDF's main effort at the start of 2016 as being to locate and destroy attack tunnels. The mission set forth for Southern Command was "to locate and destroy any tunnel that penetrates our territory without escalating the situation."
The shooting incidents on Wednesday in the Gaza border area took place against the background of the IDF's efforts to locate tunnels. Some of the shootings were aimed against forces who were seeking out the tunnel, east of the fence, which was finally uncovered on Thursday.
Since Tuesday afternoon, there were six instances of mortar fire at these forces, and in another case, light arms fire aimed at engineering corps troops.
The IDF responded with tank fire and bombed nine Hamas targets from the air. It said Hamas was responsible for the shootings. Some in the security establishment believed Hamas was trying to prevent the tunnel search and also seeking to warn Israel to lay off its efforts to find them.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, on a visit to Gaza division headquarters said:
"We will not be deterred by these threats by Hamas and will continue operations in light of the violation of our sovereignty, until we find and expose every last tunnel."
Ya'alon said further that Israel would "continue to respond to any attack or provocation by Hamas to ensure there is no escalation and that Hamas does not continue to shoot at us."
A senior official in Southern Command said recently he doesn’t think that one tunnel "will escalate the situation."
"Hamas lost an asset. If a systematic ability to locate them is found – in which more and more tunnels are found – then it (Hamas) will face a dilemma," said the official, in remarks made before the IDF pubilcized that it had found either tunnel.
The official saw success in locating tunnels but that more progress was needed. "We are not there yet," in terms of being able to systematically located every tunnel, the official said.
But, he added, "we are in a better place than in the past and we are moving forward."