The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) announced yesterday that it had destroyed an underground tunnel from Gaza that reached 20m inside Israel.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was the “longest and deepest” tunnel found by Israel so far, due to how far it stretched into Gaza and acted as a main artery for other tunnels. He said that “millions of dollars were invested, money that instead of relieving the strain on residents, was buried in the sand,” warning the people of Gaza that “Hamas is burning your money on tunnels to nowhere. We will get our hands on all of them”.
This was one of the most sophisticated ever built by Hamas and it was the eighth tunnel from Gaza to Israel detected in the last six months by the IDF, and the fifth to infiltrate Israel. It was discovered near the community of Nahal Oz which is 1300m from the Gaza border and the area on the border were most of the recent protests were concentrated. The tunnel was connected to a network of other tunnels that extended far into the Gaza strip.
“This specific tunnel was a complicated and high-quality one, in the sense that it was a network of tunnels [reaching Israel from] the northern part of the Gaza Strip,” IDF spokesperson Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said.
He added: “We will not tolerate or allow Hamas to turn the border area into an active combat zone. The IDF doesn’t seek an escalation. We are defending our borders.”
Security forces were monitoring this tunnel network, which had been under construction for years. The decision to destroy the tunnel was taken once it crossed into Israeli territory. Palestinian tunnel diggers were reportedly working their way up to the surface to construct an exit within Israeli territory when the IDF decided to act.
Israel has been using special equipment to detect the presence of tunnels and is building a new security barrier above and below ground along its border with Gaza to prevent new tunnels being built.
On Saturday four members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad died in an explosion near Rafah on the Egyptian-Gaza border. The blast was reportedly caused by a device or rocket that exploded prematurely as the Palestinians were transferring it on a three-wheeled vehicle.
Last Friday, for the third consecutive week, around 10,000 Gazans took part in large-scale demonstrations in what has been called “The March of Return”. Protesters threw firebombs at IDF troops and attempted to damage the fence between Israel and Gaza. One Palestinian was killed and 968 others injured in Gaza on Friday, Palestinian health officials said.