Israel says finds tunnel from Gaza into Israeli territory

The military wing of Hamas said the discovery was “only a drop in the ocean of what the resistance has prepared".

Israeli soldiers keeping watch as a machine drills holes in the ground on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip as they search for tunnels used by Palestinian militants for fighting Israel. Israel’s military said it had located and destroyed a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Menahem Kahana / AFP
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Jerusalem // Israel’s military said on Monday that it had located and destroyed a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, in the first such discovery since the war in 2014.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner accused Hamas of building the tunnel which extended from the southern Gaza Strip several hundred metres into Israel, though no exit was constructed.

“This tunnel is the first one to be found since Operation Protective Edge,” Mr Lerner said, referring to the 2014 war.

“It was built by Hamas in order to infiltrate and execute terror attacks against the people of the southern communities and [military] forces in that area.”

Hamas’ military wing claimed the discovery, which it said was east of the southern Gazan city of Rafah, was “only a drop in the ocean of what the resistance has prepared in order [to] defend our people, the freedom of the holy places and its land and captives”.

Its armed wing, the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, said the Israeli army had not “dared” to publish the full details of the tunnels for fear of scaring Israelis.

According to Mr Lerner, the tunnel was 30 to 40 metres underground and large enough for an adult to stand inside.

It included concrete slabs, communication lines and rails used to move rubble, he said.

He called it a new tunnel, saying the military believed it was built after the 2014 war.

Hamas forces have used tunnels in the past to avoid or carry out attacks, store weapons and at times to enter Israel and capture soldiers.

Israel launched its 2014 operation in Gaza, run by the Hamas movement, with the stated objectives of halting rocket fire and destroying attack tunnels into Israel.

It was the third war in Gaza since 2008 and the longest, deadliest and most destructive.

During the war, Israel said that 32 tunnels were discovered, including 14 that extended into Israel, according to a UN report on the conflict.

The war killed 2,251 Palestinians, while more than 10,000 were wounded and 100,000 were left homeless.

On the Israeli side, 73 people were killed, of whom 67 were soldiers.

* Agence France-Presse