The Israeli military has uncovered a Hamas tunnel that crosses from Gaza into Israeli territory. This is the first such tunnel to be discovered since the 2014 Gaza war.
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According to information released for publication on Monday, the tunnel was found 10 days ago during an Israel Defense Forces operation. Since its discovery, the military has destroyed the tunnel's openings on both sides of the border fence. According to a senior defense official, tunnel openings were found in Israeli territory between the border fence and military bases and towns.
The tunnel was found hundreds of meters from Kibbutz Holit, which is located in the Eshkol Regional Council. The IDF has yet to track the exact course of the tunnel, which began in Gaza's southern neighborhoods. In the border area, the tunnel was found to be 30 meters deep.
The Palestinian site Zamn Press reported that the tunnel was built over the course of two years, included power infrastructure and was geared toward long stays. According to the report, Israel suspects the tunnel had several branches and was meant to be used by Hamas for abduction purposes.
The IDF said that Hamas has identified military efforts to locate tunnels in the area, but decided to go through with its activity anyway. "Hamas is digging tunnels for purposes of offense and defense," a senior Southern Command officer said, noting that efforts to dig underground paths into Israel began before the 2014 Gaza hostilities, and continued afterward. "The working assumption is that other invading tunnels exist. We are active anywhere there is such concern."
The officer defined the discovery as a "harbinger" of the military's technology-based efforts to locate tunnels.
It is as yet unclear whether the tunnel whether the tunnel was costructed before or after 2014's Operation Protective Edge. According to IDF figures, during the operation the army destroyed 32 tunnels, among them 14 tunnels that crossed the border and were in fact in Israeli territory.
Hamas operates a force of between 500 and 800 diggers, who are working to pursue Hamas' tunnel enterprise. "The tunnels are an asset for Hamas. Each such tunnel – is a loss," a senior Southern Command officer said in recent days. "The tunnels constitute Hamas' biggest concealment effort."
The IDF also revealed a number of tunnels in Israeli territory before Operation Protective Edge. Those tunnels were found as a result of weather damages or the alertness of farmers who were working in the area.
At the beginning of the year, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot defined operations to locate and destroy tunnels as the army's primary effort and this mission was set at the top of the IDF's agenda. As part of this, nearly 100 pieces of heavy engineering equipment took part in an extensive campaign to locate tunnels.