The army destroyed a significant Hamas tunnel that had infiltrated Israeli territory, said IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis on Sunday.
Calling it a “significant tunnel of high quality,” Manelis said that Hamas began building it following the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and that “the tunnel was ready for use.”
The tunnel’s route was identified and monitored by security forces until its destruction, and was neutralized inside Israeli territory by a team of engineers in an operation led by the Gaza division of the Southern Command, IDF Intelligence and the Israel Air Force.
It stretched several kilometers inside Gaza and was connected to several other tunnels in the Hamas-run enclave. It stretched some 20 meters inside Israel close to the community of Kfar Aza, but “did not at any point pose any threat to Israeli citizens or communities,” Manelis stressed.
It was destroyed in ways similar to the neutralization of past tunnels, by flooding it with material which prevents Hamas from ever using it again. The material is believed to have extended deep into the network of other tunnels inside Gaza rendering them also useless.
Adi Meiri, a spokeswoman for the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council where the tunnel was located, said that authorities are in regular contact with the army and that there was no change in security measures to the residents.
The neutralization of the tunnel “attests to the capabilities that the IDF has developed to deal with the threat of tunnels in the area,” she said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on Twitter Sunday morning that Israel is “opening the week with another impressive intelligence and operational achievement with the destruction of another tunnel, the longest and deepest exposed thus far.”
“Citizens of Gaza, Hamas burns your money on tunnels,” he added.
“Hamas continues to invest enormous resources in futile terrorist efforts instead of investing them in the welfare of Gaza residents,” read a statement released by the army. “The IDF will not allow harm to the security of the citizens of Israel or any violations of its sovereignty, and will continue to act resolutely against terrorism of any kind.”פותחים שבוע בהישג מודיעיני ומבצעי מרשים, עם השמדתה של מנהרת טרור נוספת, הארוכה והעמוקה ביותר שנחשפה עד כה. מנהרה שבחפירתה הושקעו מיליוני דולרים, כסף שבמקום להקל על מצוקת התושבים, טבע בחול. תושבי עזה, חמאס שורף את הכסף שלכם על מנהרות לשום מקום. על כולן נשים את היד.
While the security establishment does not believe that Hamas currently seeks another conflict, the situation is fragile, especially given the worsening conditions in the Strip. Gazans have been demonstrating on the border fence with Israel each Friday in recent months and the army believes that Hamas attempts to use these weekly demonstrations as covers to carry out terrorist attacks.
According to Manelis, the tunnel began outside Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, mere meters from where thousands of Palestinians have been demonstrating along the border fence.
“Hamas has been working in recent months, and more intensively in recent weeks, to turn the border fence into a zone of terror and fighting,” Manelis said, adding that “The violent demonstrations are a cover for terrorist attempts both above and below ground.”
The work by the military to locate and neutralize tunnels for terrorism has “intensified” in the past six months and it plans to complete its underground barrier with the Gaza Strip by the end of the year.
The tunnel neutralized on Sunday was the fifth cross-border tunnel to be found and destroyed by the army in recent months and the first to be found in the northern area of the Hamas-run enclave. Several other underground targets have also been destroyed inside in the Strip.
Several hours after announcing the destruction of the tunnel the IDF unveiled details of its technological “laboratory” which detects and locates tunnels crossing into Israel.
Described as the “technological arm” for tunnel detection, it was established two years ago as part of the IDF’s Gaza Division and is headed by Captain B. who was trained in electrical engineering and chemistry. Under his command, laboratory personnel work closely with physicists, geologists, engineers, intelligence forces and other units in the field.
“Hamas continues to invest enormous resources in futile terrorist efforts instead of investing them in the welfare of Gaza residents,” read a statement released by the army. “The IDF will not allow harm to the security of the citizens of Israel or any violations of its sovereignty, and will continue to act resolutely against terrorism of any kind.”