by AP and Nikki Guttman
After destroying fourth terror tunnel in as many months, IDF says latest tunnel seems to have been attempt to "recycle" part of previously demolished grid
An Israeli tank and military vehicle next to a security barrier
near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip
Another attack tunnel built by the Hamas terrorist group was destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday, the IDF said after the demolition.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel had been intended to connect to an older one Israel partially destroyed in the southern Gaza Strip during the 2014 war.
The latest tunnel is the first known case of Hamas trying to "recycle" part of its devastated tunnel network.
Conricus said Israel had followed Hamas' progress for some time and that the targeted tunnels will now be impossible to rebuild. Conricus said building the tunnels was a "futile effort" by the Islamic militants and a waste of resources that could have been put to better use to aid Gaza's destitute residents.
"The IDF will not allow the lives of soldiers or civilians to be in danger," the IDF said in a statement.
"We want security and stability and we will take action to combat any attempt to violate our sovereignty."
According to the military statement, the tunnel was located in the Rafah area and posed no threat to Israeli communities near the Gaza border. It did not penetrate Israel at any point.
The coastal territory has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas wrested power over it in 2007.
Israel has placed a high priority on halting the tunnel threat since Hamas used the tunnel network to infiltrate Israel during the 2014 war. Although the tunnels did not manage to reach civilian areas, the infiltrations caught Israel off guard. One attack killed five Israeli soldiers and terrified the local population.
The tunnel demolished Sunday was the fourth Israel has destroyed over the past four months.
The operation followed Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza over the weekend in response to bombs planted along the border that were detonated in an attempt to harm Israeli troops.
"In a systematic manner, with the help of quality intelligence and groundbreaking technology, Israel is destroying all of Hamas' tunnels one by one," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday following the demolition.
"They thought that they could attack us from underground, but they have hit an iron wall. Hamas has invested billions in the tunnel project, and now they are sinking in the sand.
"I would suggest that Hamas invest its resources in the welfare of the residents of Gaza, because by the end of this year, its tunnel project will be entirely destroyed."
Israel has been hard at work building an ambitious subterranean barrier to detect and prevent attack tunnels. Israeli military officials say the secretive project will be a major deterrent against what Israel has seen as a strategic threat since the last clash with Hamas.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008. During the most recent conflict in 2014, Israel destroyed 32 tunnels.
AP and Nikki Guttman
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