A tunnel leading from under the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, discovered by the IDF last week, was to be used at a future date by Hamas to carry out a terror attack or kidnapping.
The exit point of the 1,800m tunnel is near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.
According to Israeli intelligence, it was almost certainly excavated by Hamas and took over 18 months to complete.
The tunnel, which in parts was as deep as 22m, was paved throughout with concrete slabs and included electricity and a telephone line.
The discovery of the underground passage, apparently following a tip-off from an informer, has not changed the basic Israeli view that Hamas is currently interested in keeping the ceasefire while consolidating its control of Gaza and rebuilding its military infrastructure that was destroyed during last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence.
The tunnel was most likely meant for a future operation in which Hamas would try to kidnap IDF soldiers or carry out a high-profile attack deep in Israeli territory.
Major General Sammy Turgeman, the chief of the IDF’s Southern Command, said that while Hamas is actively working to prevent other Palestinian groups from attacking Israel, “it is building up its power with rockets and tunnels”.
Following the discovery, Hamas blew up a section of the tunnel beneath buildings in Gaza.
Israel suspended the supply of cement to Gaza, despite the fact that most of the materials used in the tunnel were smuggled under the border with Egypt.
Hamas pivot back to Iran
Hamas is finding its way back into Iran’s orbit after a two-year rift caused by the Syrian civil war.
Political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal arrived this week in Tehran for talks with Iranian leaders as part of a concerted effort in recent months by the Palestinian movement to rebuild ties.
Regional developments including the Iran-backed repression of Syria’s Sunni rebels, who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood — Hamas’s parent organisation — and the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt following the 2011 revolution, caused a fissure between Gaza and Tehran. Hamas closed its offices in Damascus and hoped to receive backing from Cairo. Iran drastically cut its aid to Hamas, transferring its support to Islamic Jihad.
Following the fall of the Morsi government in Egypt and the suppression of the Brotherhood by the new military-backed government, Hamas is finding itself out of favour in Cairo, as well as in some of the Gulf states supporting Egypt’s generals. As a result, those within Hamas who were opposed all along to cutting ties with Iran have gained the upper hand.