by Lilach Shoval and Gadi Golan
IDF says tunnel was in advanced stages of completion, posed no threat to Israeli citizens.
A Hamas-dug attack tunnel recently discovered with advanced
IDF technologyPhoto: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
The IDF neutralized an attack tunnel on Saturday night that had been dug under Israel's border with Gaza, the military announced Sunday.
The tunnel, believed to have been dug by the terrorist group Hamas, was dug several hundred meters into Israeli territory from the Khan Younis area of Gaza.
The announcement, cleared by Israeli censors who had previously barred reports of detection work around the central Gaza border, followed a surge of Palestinian unrest in response to last week's U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The discovery of the tunnel comes just over a month after Israel detonated a similar cross-border attack tunnel dug by Islamic Jihad.
The latest tunnel, like its predecessors, was uncovered by the Israeli military with the help of advanced technological tools complemented by intelligence and operational efforts.
The tunnel destroyed Saturday was in advanced stages of completion, much closer to being operational than the Islamic Jihad tunnel that was destroyed a month earlier. The opening of the tunnel, which was not yet complete, was situated in an agricultural area inside Israel, several kilometers from any Israeli community.
The tunnel was not detonated, like the last tunnel that was discovered, but was neutralized in a "quiet" manner, to avoid being heard in Gaza.
After the news of the neutralization was made public Sunday, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis remarked: "Hamas' tunnel project suffered a devastating blow tonight. Over the last few weeks, we have been working to pinpoint the exact location of the tunnel. We gained full control over the tunnel and tonight we neutralized it permanently."
The IDF stressed that the operation was conducted entirely within Israeli territory, without any entry into Gaza. Manelis noted in addition that there were no known Palestinian casualties as a result of the operation.
"We have a system, which takes time," Manelis added. "But the results are significant."
"The tunnel posed no threat to the citizens of Israel. It was kilometers away from any residential area," he said. "But this was a blatant and obvious violation of Israeli sovereignty.
"Hamas is responsible for everything that comes out of the Gaza Strip – in the air, in the sea and underground. We will not allow our sovereignty to be compromised in any way. We will take decisive action against this flagship Hamas project. I advise anyone who chooses to challenge Israeli sovereignty to take the cost into account. The tunnels will turn into death traps," Manelis pledged.
Sources in the military reported that at this stage, no weapons have been found inside the tunnel, but added that the tunnel had not been fully searched yet. According to Manelis, the construction of the tunnel was at a very high standard, equipped with electricity, communications equipment and a ventilation system.
"Hamas views tunnels as extremely important," he said.
A network of Gaza tunnels allowed Hamas gunmen to blindside Israel's superior military during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, and Israel has since stepped up work on countermeasures.
Manelis also noted that Saturday's operation had been scheduled weeks ago and was not linked in any way to the American recognition of Jerusalem or the consequent unrest.
Lilach Shoval and Gadi Golan
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