Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Gaza Strip Monday discovered a large tunnel originating from the Palestinian enclave, apparently designed to facilitate a terror attack.
Soldiers from the Israel Defense Force’s Combat Engineering Corps were dispatched to investigate the tunnel, located adjacent to the southern Gaza Strip, after it was discovered near Nir Oz Kibbutz.
The army said the shaft was part of an elaborate terror plan against Israeli targets or an attempt to kidnap soldiers. The IDF deemed the tunnel a “serious security threat.”
The incident was cleared for publication Tuesday morning.
The tunnel was “large enough to carry people and is the same kind of tunnel used in 2006 to ambush IDF soldiers and kidnap Gilad Shalit,” the army said via Twitter.
After combing the area and probing to find the tunnel’s terminus Monday afternoon, the IDF blocked the entrance to the tunnel and inspected it for explosives, among other things.
The army said that despite the relative calm between Israel and Gaza since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, terror groups are still gaining strength and training. Kidnapping attempts remain a “preferred method” of terrorist organizations based in the Strip, a Southern Command officer said.
“Such a tunnel in Israel indicates a clear intent by Gaza terrorist groups, led by Hamas, to attack Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” the army stated via Twitter.
Hamas relies heavily on tunnels between Gaza and Egypt to smuggle goods and arms into the Strip, which is partially blockaded by Israel.
Also on Monday, Egyptian police discovered explosives hidden in a cave in the center of the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian security forces discovered 89 anti-aircraft missiles and RPGs, shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons, near el-Arish, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Tunnels have also been dug under the fence with Israel to carry out terror attacks.
In early November, Israeli troops discovered a large tunnel near Kibbutz Nirim adjacent to the south-central Strip, and ventured 200 meters into Gaza to search for arms. While repairing the border fence, an “extremely large” amount of explosives detonated on the Gaza side of the border. One soldier was very lightly injured, and an IDF jeep was damaged by the blast, which reportedly launched it 20 meters.
In June 2006, Palestinian terrorists crossed into Israel from Gaza via an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom crossing and attacked an Israeli army position, killing two soldiers and capturing a third, Gilad Shalit. Shalit was dragged into Gaza and held captive by Hamas for more than five years. He was released in a lopsided prisoner exchange in October 2011 under which Israel freed more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.
Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have repeatedly vowed to kidnap more Israeli soldiers in order to pressure Israel into releasing further security prisoners, including the orchestrators of major suicide attacks in Israel whom Israel balked at releasing in the Shalit exchange.
Ilan Ben Zion and AP contributed to this report.