IDF finds possible tunnel openings in Gaza border towns

Soldiers ordered to guard three deep shafts while army investigates whether they are man-made

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Hamas tunnel, photographed by Israeli soldiers on Friday, July 18, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
A Hamas tunnel, photographed by Israeli soldiers on Friday, July 18, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

Three openings in the ground were found inside communities in the Gaza border area, barely 100 meters from residents’ homes and close to a kindergarten and playing field, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

Security forces suspect the shafts could be tunnel entrances dug by Hamas under the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces and security forces have closed off the areas around the openings as a precaution against possible terrorism infiltrations.

In the coming days, military engineers will investigate the shafts to see if they are man-made tunnel openings or merely natural sinkholes.

A soldier tasked with securing one of the holes told Channel 2 that, so far, forces have not found a tunnel but it is still a possibility, leading to the military presence in the area.

“We are supposed to keep watch and be a ‘welcoming committee,'” he said, referring to the possibility of a Palestinian attack.

The IDF said in a statement that, continuing the efforts begun during Operation Protective Edge, the army was working to defend the Gaza border area communities and that security forces were familiar with the openings.

“These are known shafts, and if more shafts are found they will be dealt with from within our territory,” the IDF said.

One of the stated aims of Operation Protective Edge was to locate and destroy the network of attack tunnels dug under the border by Hamas and used by terrorists to enter Israel.

Eleven IDF soldiers were killed in several ambushes launched by terrorists who had emerged from the tunnels. During the ground offensive into Gaza, the IDF blew up some 30 tunnels.

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