Army destroys Gaza tunnel discovered during summer war

Weapons and explosives cache found in underground passage leading from Gaza into Israel, IDF says

A Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
A Hamas tunnel discovered by soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade in the northern Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Nearly six months after wrapping up a 50-day war with Hamas-led fighters in Gaza to stymie rocket fire and destroy cross-border tunnels, Israeli forces demolished the remains of a subterranean passageway from the Strip jutting into Israel, the IDF said Monday.

The army said in a statement it found “a cache of weapons and explosives,” in the tunnel, and noted that it did not enter Gaza during work to destroy the passageway.

The army ended Operation Protective Edge in late August after saying it had destroyed all 31 cross-border tunnels dug for attacks against Israelis, but senior officers admitted at the time that “one or two” tunnels could have gone undetected.

Gazan fighters used the tunnels for several attacks against Israeli forces, sometimes penetrating deep into Israeli territory. In one attack on an IDF post near Kibbutz Nahal Oz during the summer operation, five soldiers were killed.

The tunnel destroyed recently had an opening near Nahal Oz and reached the Shejaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City, according to Israeli news site Ynet.

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The army said it was discovered during the summer operation, but did not explain why its destruction was delayed.

The army had full control over the tunnel between the war and now, according to Ynet.

The tunnel was “demolished in order to prevent its rehabilitation in order to safeguard the security of the civilians of southern Israel,” the army statement said.

Unnamed security sources have said recently that Hamas is working to rebuild its tunnel infrastructure as well as rearm its depleted rocket arsenal.

In October, a Vanity Fair report confirmed rumors that before the summer’s war, Hamas was planning to insert hundreds of terrorists into Israel via underground tunnels, to kidnap and kill a large number of Israelis.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed during the summer war, according to UN figures, which said most of them were civilians. Israel said some 1,000 of the fatalities were Hamas operatives and other gunmen, and blamed Hamas for all civilian casualties, arguing that the group attacked Israel from within residential areas.

Hamas and other terror groups fired over 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel, and staged several deadly attacks against IDF soldiers through cross-border tunnels. Seventy-three people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers, were killed during the operation.

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