IDF says it blew up Hamas tunnel that stretched hundreds of meters into Israel

Underground route was discovered in 2019 but never disclosed to the public; military had repeatedly claimed no tunnels entered Israel since construction of underground barrier

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

This image, from a video released by the IDF on April 6, 2024, shows a Hamas tunnel being demolished in the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)
This image, from a video released by the IDF on April 6, 2024, shows a Hamas tunnel being demolished in the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Saturday that it had destroyed three major Hamas attack tunnels in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza — including one that entered several hundred meters into Israeli territory — which it said had been under Israeli surveillance in recent years.

The revelation came as a shock to residents of border communities and reporters, as the IDF has for years claimed that no tunnels from the Gaza Strip have crossed into Israel since the construction of Israel’s underground border barrier, completed in 2021 (some tunnels have been located on the Gaza side of the underground barrier, technically several meters into Israeli territory).

The tunnel that passed hundreds of meters into Israel was first found in 2019 during the construction work on the new border barrier, the IDF said.

The IDF said the passage that entered Israel had remained under “secret” surveillance and control since its discovery.

“Sensors and explosives were placed in [the tunnel] in order to be used by the IDF if needed, as part of a special operation against the underground network of the Hamas terror organization,” the military said.

The IDF said the tunnel was struck numerous times amid the war, alongside other operations to render the section that entered Israeli territory inoperable.

The rest of the tunnel was blown up in recent weeks, it said Saturday.

According to the IDF, the tunnel was not used by Hamas during the October 7 onslaught and remained under intense surveillance amid the war.

Another of the three tunnels was first uncovered a decade ago, and during the 2021 Gaza war it was targeted in an airstrike, killing several Hamas operatives, the IDF said.

At the beginning of the current war, the same tunnel was struck at several locations, preventing it from being used. It was blown up within the past few weeks, according to the IDF.

The third tunnel was first found in 2014, and at the time crossed into Israeli territory and was later destroyed. The IDF said Hamas did not work to fix the tunnel, and in recent weeks another section of the underground passage, deeper inside Gaza, was blown up.

In January, senior Israeli defense officials estimated to The New York Times that Hamas’s vast tunnel network within Gaza runs a total of 350-400 miles long, much more than previously believed. The tunnels are believed to be accessed by some 5,700 shafts.

The IDF said Hamas had used more than 6,000 tons of concrete and 1,800 tons of steel and likely invested tens of millions of dollars into the project.

Since launching a ground offensive in the wake of the October 7 massacres, in which Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, Israeli forces have worked to destroy the tunnels, uncovering more and more of the underground network.

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