A top Hamas official said on Friday that the Islamist movement’s military wing discovered sensors, cameras, and other surveillance equipment in one of its tunnels underneath the Gaza Strip.
Ismail Haniyeh, the former head of the Hamas-run government in Gaza and the current deputy political bureau chief, said that the gadgets found by the Izzadin al-Kassam brigades were planted there in an effort to discover more tunnels.
Earlier this month, a Hamas operative was killed in a tunnel collapse in southern Gaza's Khan Younis region, according to Palestinian sources.
A Gaza health ministry spokesman confirmed the reports, saying Marwan Marouf, 27, a fighter in Hamas' Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades, was killed in the tunnel collapse.
There were no immediate reports of additional casualties in the collapse.
The incident marked the fourth Gaza tunnel collapse in recent weeks.
Days before, Hamas officials confirmed the death of at least two of its operatives in a tunnel collapse.
In the week prior to that incident, seven Hamas men were killed when a tunnel collapsed close to Gaza's eastern border with Israel.
Last month, Haniyeh vowed that his group will never stop digging tunnels and upgrading rockets in preparation for any possible confrontation with Israel.
While Israeli residents in southern communities in the Gaza periphery have complained about night-time tunnel digging sounds, the upper echelon of Israel’s right-wing government appears to be rife with dissension over what to do about Hamas’ underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi party reportedly implored his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to authorize a preemptive military operation against the Palestinian Islamist movement, which is making efforts to rehabilitate its network of underground passageways.
Bennett, who reportedly made the suggestion during a recent cabinet meeting, was rebuffed by both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said the military's extensive counter-measures against Hamas tunnel threats from Gaza are mostly hidden from public view, and rely on the most advanced technology and engineering capabilities.
Speaking at the Fourth Annual Conference in memory of Lt.-Gen. Amnon Lipkin Shahak, held at the IDC, Herzliya, Eisenkot said he was not at liberty to discuss most of the IDF Southern Command's efforts to deal with Hamas's tunnel threats, but assured the public that major efforts are underway.
Since 2013, he said, "this has been at the top of the IDF's priority list. There has been an ongoing intelligence effort," he added.