Hamas on Sunday officially admitted to digging the tunnel under the Israeli-Gaza border discovered earlier this month by the IDF.
In a radio broadcast, Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, said its members “dug the tunnel, they were responsible for it.”
He referred to the underground structure as the “Khan Younis tunnel,” adding that it was dug for the purpose of forcing Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, as it did two years ago in the prisoner exchange deal for Gilad Shalit in which 1,027 Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons.
Last week, the IDF revealed that it had uncovered an underground tunnel linking Gaza and Israel, likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempt inside Israel.
The tunnel, which an official said was particularly wide and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Yunis, in Gaza, and terminated inside Israel about three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.
It was found on October 7, military officials said.
A similar tunnel was used in the 2006 Hamas raid which led to the capture of Shalit and the killing of two IDF soldiers. Shalit was held hostage in Gaza for five years.
On Saturday, Hamas marked the second anniversary his release, with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh saying the deal was a “historic achievement.”
The Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) — a coalition of armed Palestinian factions — said that “capturing Israeli soldiers is the effective way and strategy to liberate Palestinian prisoners,” using the Shalit deal as “a reliable example to break the Israeli shackles,” the Hamas-run website Qassam.ps reported on Saturday.
The PRC called for a “national strategy” to free the prisoners.
Abu Obeida claimed Saturday that Hamas now had “a greater capacity” to carry out kidnappings.