Netanyahu: Technological Breakthrough Led to Exposed Hamas Tunnel Between Gaza and Israel

The prime minister sees neither Israel nor Hamas as interested in 'any escalation' but threatens that any attacks from Gaza would meet with a vigorous response.

IDF forces near the area where a Hamas tunnel was discovered, on April 18, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "a special technological breakthrough" was responsible for the detection of a tunnel running from southern Gaza into Israel, whose discovery was announced on Monday.

Netanyahu said he couldn't go into further detail on the subject due to its security sensitivity, but of the discovery afforded by the latest know-how, he said that:

"It's a very significant change in our capability to locate tunnels." 

"We are investing a great deal of money in this technology and we made a decision about this in the security cabinet. We are creating a type of defense and a capability to thwart tunnels, which doesn't exist anywhere in the world, and we have verified this in the entire world," Netanyahu said, in a briefing to political reporters.

"Residents of Gaza border communities can put their minds at ease," Netanyahu added.

The two years since Operation Protective Edge have been the quietest the south has seen, Netanyahu said.

"The Negev is flourishing," he went on. "I am certain that Hamas knows and understands that we will respond with tremendous strength if we are attacked from the air, ground or sea or from beneath the ground. We are not interested now in any escalation and neither are they interested in any escalation at the moment."

"Israel has made a great achievement in its effort to find a solution to the tunnels of terrorism. Just as we developed the Iron Dome aerial system we are developing an underground Iron Dome system," Netanyahu said.

The tunnel revealed on Monday was discovered about 10 days ago some 30 meters beneath the ground near Kibbutz Holit. It was the first subterranean passage from Gaza to be unearthed since Operation Protective Edge, in 2014.

The IDF has destroyed the tunnel's openings on either side 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 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.  

An IDF officer said the military had deployed some 100 pieces of heavy engineering equipment along the Gaza border in the past two months as part of an intensive search for tunnels.

A senior Israeli official added that over the past several weeks, Israel has significantly reduced the amount of cement and building materials headed to Gaza amid the tunnel locating efforts, since Hamas uses these materials for tunnel construction.