Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that the terror group’s military wing last week found cameras and underground sensors designed to expose its tunnel project and related activities.
Haniyeh said that 10 days ago the military wing “discovered an underground vehicle on which were installed cameras and sensors to monitor tunnels and fighters.”
According to the Ynet news website, Haniyeh was referring to a Hamas investigation into a series of tunnel collapses in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, which have killed at least 10 of its members.
Speaking during a sermon at Friday prayers in the Shati refugee camp where he lives, Haniyeh said the find gave the movement an “advantage.”
He said despite fresh tensions there was “no war against Gaza looming on the horizon.”
Haniyeh added: “The occupation is embarking on defensive maneuvers and it is proof that [Israel] is not preparing for war.”
He said there had been “a lot of progress on the issue of the port of Gaza,” in recent talks between Israel and Turkey on mending ties between the two governments.
He also warned that Gaza now has its own means of dealing with any Israeli military threat. “We have a mechanism for deterrence — and I mean deterrence,” he said, without elaborating.
Hamas officials have pledged to continue building tunnels under the Israeli border, even after the recent collapses.
The UN’s Mideast envoy said Wednesday that threats by Hamas to continue building tunnels into Israel do “not help” reconstruction efforts in war-battered Gaza.
Nikolay Mladenov was speaking during a visit to Gaza during which he toured the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiyah, one of the hardest hit areas in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
His remarks appeared to be a veiled criticism aimed at the group, which has struggled to balance its hard-line anti-Israel ideology and the pragmatic needs of ruling the territory. Reconstruction in Gaza has been sluggish, and Mladenov said only a third of funds pledged by international donors has been received.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said last week the army has employed nearly 100 engineering vehicles on the border to locate and destroy the Hamas passageways into Israel.
During the 2014 Israel-Hamas war, Palestinian gunmen emerged from the tunnels on several occasions to ambush IDF forces, killing several soldiers.
The IDF said it destroyed more than 30 Hamas terror tunnels during the 50-day conflict of 2014, about one-third of which extended beneath the Gaza border into Israel.
In late 2014, Egypt began setting up a buffer zone on its border with Gaza, and destroyed hundreds of tunnels it says are used for smuggling weapons and other items. Last September, Egyptian forces carried out digging work that Palestinians say led to the flooding of the last remaining tunnels there.
Last week, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip’s southern border were flooded by Egypt at Israel’s request. His office later said the remarks were misinterpreted.
AP contributed to this report