IDF reveals 2 km Hamas tunnel running adjacent to Egypt border crossing in Rafah

Now-demolished underground passage was allegedly used to smuggle weapons into Gaza; military claims operational control over areas in central Gaza Strip amid renewed offensive

This image from video released by the IDF on June 5, 2024, shows a Hamas smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza's Rafah. (Israel Defense Forces)
This image from video released by the IDF on June 5, 2024, shows a Hamas smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza's Rafah. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces revealed Wednesday that it had recently located and destroyed a major Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza’s Rafah, adjacent to the border crossing with Egypt, allegedly used by the terror group to smuggle weapons into the Strip.

The discovery of the tunnel came as the IDF continued its operations in and around Rafah, while also making gains in a fresh offensive in the central Gaza Strip. Eight months into the war that started with Palestinian terror group Hamas’s devastating October 7 onslaught in Israel, the military has found itself returning to some areas it previously operated in as Hamas works to reestablish itself at those locations.

Troops located several tunnel shafts in the Rafah area, which led to the discovery of the 2-kilometer-long (1.2-mile-long) underground route with several passages branching off it.

Inside the tunnel, troops found weapons, explosives and a large amount of intelligence material, the military said. Some parts of the tunnel were blocked by blast doors.

Combat engineers later demolished the tunnel, which was part of a vast network of passages Hamas dug under Gaza.

In total, the IDF has so far located some 20 tunnels that cross into Egypt along the so-called Philadelphi Route separating Gaza’s Rafah from Egypt. At least 82 shafts leading into the tunnels have been located in the area.

Hamas has been known to use such tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza, despite attempts by Egypt to thwart them over the past decade. Last week, Egyptian state media cited an unnamed high-level source as denying such tunnels still exist.

In another development Wednesday, the IDF said it has established “operational control” over the east Bureij and east Deir al-Balah areas in the central Gaza Strip, after launching a new operation in the area the day before.

Troops of the 7th Armored Brigade and Kfir Infantry Brigade killed several gunmen in battles and by calling in airstrikes, in addition to locating tunnel shafts, the IDF said.

Hours into the operation, the IDF said troops had located a mortar launcher hidden in a small structure with a United Nations logo on it.

A mortar launcher located by troops in central Gaza’s Buriej, June 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF said the operation was launched following intelligence on operatives and infrastructure belonging to terror groups above and below ground in the area, several kilometers from the Israeli border.

The war started on October 7 when Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The estimated 3,000 attackers who burst through the boundary also abducted 251 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to Gaza, amid rampant acts of brutality.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas and free the hostages. The fighting has devastated large swathes of Gaza while humanitarian deliveries have been hampered by the fighting.

Also Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the US Defense Department’s updated assessment of the expected cost of a temporary aid pier off the coast of Gaza had been lowered from $320 million to $230 million.

The newly constructed pier is intended to supplement aid deliveries that are trucked into Gaza, but has faced setbacks including supporting boats twice breaking free and floating away in harsh weather. The pier was damaged and halted operations last month, less than two weeks after it began operating, due to extreme weather.

“While assessments are ongoing, this estimate does include some of the costs associated with the repairs and rebuilding of the pier,” Singh said during a press briefing.

Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before entering the beach in Gaza, May 17, 2024. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/US Army Central via AP)

The Pentagon spokesperson said the US planned to re-anchor the pier back to the Gaza coast by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said at least 36,586 Palestinians have been killed and 83,074 injured in Israel’s military offensive since October 7,

The figures cannot be verified and only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. Hamas does not distinguish between deaths of combatants and unarmed civilians, or between those killed by Israel and those killed by errant Palestinian rockets.

The tolls include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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