search

After Gaza tunnel uncovered by IDF, private firm may have found 2nd

Company hired by border community residents to search for Hamas-built tunnels reportedly detects hollow underground shaft

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a photo released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a photo released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Following the early Monday announcement that the IDF had discovered an “attack tunnel” inside Israeli territory emanating from the Gaza Strip, a private Israeli firm may have found a second cross-border passageway.

The company, hired to search for tunnels by residents of Gaza-border communities, has detected a hollow underground shaft that it says may have been dug by Hamas in order to carry out terror attacks in Israel, a report on Channel 2 news said.

The firm, not named in the report, is said to have been carrying out scans of land around a number of communities where residents have complained of hearing digging noises beneath their feet.

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday that it had “neutralized” a concrete-lined tunnel it found last week adjacent to the southern Gaza Strip. It did not elaborate on whether the tunnel was destroyed or merely sealed off.

A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a picture released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a picture released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Its exact location is still being kept under wraps by the military censor, though it does not appear that the tunnel led directly into Holit or Sufa, the Israeli communities closest to the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF has identified the Hamas terror organization as the group behind the tunnel’s construction and maintains it was dug “in order to carry out attacks against civilians,” a spokesperson said, though he would not discuss the specific intelligence that led to that finding.

IDF soldiers use a camera to peer into the Hamas attack tunnel discovered near the Gaza border last week, in a video released on April 18, 2016. (Screen capture: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF soldiers use a camera to peer into the Hamas attack tunnel discovered near the Gaza border last week, in a video released on April 18, 2016. (Screen capture: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

It is the first such tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During that operation, dubbed in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces, many of them leading into Israeli territory.

Following the operation, Hamas vowed to continue using tunnels and rockets to attack the Jewish state. Speaking at a rally in the Gaza Strip last week, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh again told residents: “Our message to the prisoners is a message inked in blood. The rifle and the tunnel are our commitment.”

Following the 50-day conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in summer 2014, Israel invested an estimated NIS 1 billion (approximately $250 million) toward developing a detection system to locate such tunnels.

This February 10, 2016, file photo shows IDF soldiers keeping watch as a machine drills holes in the ground on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip as they search for tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists planning to attack Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)
IDF soldiers keeping watch as a machine drills holes in the ground on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip in the search for tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists planning to attack Israel, February 10, 2016. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel’s tunnel detection system was the first of its kind in the world, calling the discovery a “world breakthrough.”

The army reportedly used such a system to discover the tunnel, though IDF officials stressed that technology was not the only aspect of the discovery operation, which also included extensive intelligence gathering and “boots on the ground.”

Though the tunnel was found just over a week ago, the publication of its discovery was forbidden by the military censor until Monday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
comments