by Nikki Guttman and AP
Tunnel sealed with concrete to prevent future rehabilitation of infrastructure
A Hamas-dug attack tunnel discovered and destroyed by the
Israeli military over the weekendPhoto: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Israeli forces exposed and destroyed a Hamas-built terror tunnel over the weekend stretching across the Gaza border and several meters into Israeli territory, the IDF revealed Sunday.
The tunnel had been dug nearly as far as the Israeli community of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the border.
The tunnel was detected by advanced Israeli military technology. Upon its discovery, dozens of Israeli cement mixers were brought to the site to pour concrete into the tunnel and seal it.
According to the Israeli military, the method of pouring concrete into the tunnel prevents Hamas from rehabilitating the destroyed tunnel for future use, something is has attempted a number of times after Israel destroyed its tunnels by other means.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis summed up the event Sunday, saying that "we are nearing our objective of completely removing the tunnel threat by the end of 2018. This was the fifth terror tunnel discovered within Israeli territory in recent months."
Referring to the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, during which Israel destroyed much of Hamas' extensive tunnel infrastructure, Manelis added that "The tunnel was dug from Jabaliya [in Gaza], and work on it began after [the 2014 war] Operation Protective Edge."
"We have been monitoring it for some time, and at no point did it pose any threat to the residents of Israel," he continued. "This was the first tunnel discovered in the northern arena since Operation Protective Edge. All the rest of the tunnels were in the southern arena."
The latest Hamas tunnel was connected to a network dug in the northern Gaza Strip. The tunnel was adjacent to the site of recent mass protests, which Israel says Hamas is using as a cover for attacks.
In two weeks of border protests, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,500 wounded by Israeli fire. The marches have been organized by Gaza's Hamas rulers.
"The fact that the tunnel was situated within the area of the border protests is exactly what we're dealing with," Manelis noted. "If the border fence is breached, it will not only be civilians who enter [Israel] but also terror operatives who will use infrastructure like this tunnel."
"The tunnel is long and well built," Manelis added. "It only proves how cynical Hamas is – investing in tunnels instead of [Gaza] residents. This is not the way to confront Gaza's problems."
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the tunnel destroyed over the weekend was the longest and deepest tunnel Israel has discovered thus far.
"It's a tunnel that cost millions of dollars to dig, money that instead of going to ease the hardship of Gaza's residents has sunk in the sand," he said. "Residents of Gaza: Hamas is burning your money on tunnels to nowhere."
"We are not looking to exacerbate tensions," the spokesman added. "We do not want the situation to deteriorate. We will not allow any violations of our sovereignty but at the same time we are making a lot efforts for the benefit of the [Gaza] population like increasing the fishing area and sending more trucks through the Kerem Shalom [border crossing]."
Hamas had no immediate comment.
Israel is now working on a subterranean barrier to detect and prevent attack tunnels. Israel says the barrier, as well as new technological innovations, have rendered the Hamas tunnel project futile.
So far, Israel has completed 9 kilometers of the underground barrier along the 65-kilometer border.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008. During the most recent conflict in 2014, Israel destroyed 32 tunnels.
Nikki Guttman and AP
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