The discovery of a large tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel has led to a war of words between Israel and Hamas.
The tunnel, one of the longest discovered so far, leads 700 metres east of the border, and runs close to the Israeli communities of Kibbutz Nirim and Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, according to the Israeli army officers who uncovered it.
This is the fourth such earthwork discovered in the past 18 months. Israeli intelligence believes they have been prepared by Hamas for future terror attacks, and that more of them remain concealed.
Even before the IDF announced it had made the discovery, Hamas’ military wing, the Ezaddin el-Kasam Brigades, held a press conference in Gaza where they claimed it was an “old tunnel” and that it had been exposed because of heavy rain rather than by IDF activity.
A spokesman for the Brigades said: “Our enemy is using psychological warfare against the Palestinian people but Palestinian resistance will remain dominant.”
The IDF, however, presented digging equipment and generators found in the tunnel as proof that digging had gone on very recently.
Major General Sammy Turgeman, CO Southern Command said: “The tunnel we uncovered was strategic for Hamas. This isn’t an old tunnel but one they were working on until the last few days.”
While Hamas in Gaza is currently observing the unofficial ceasefire with Israel, the IDF believes that the movement is preparing for future operations. It said the tunnel could have been used by Hamas fighters to launch an attack on an IDF outpost or patrol, in the same way one was used in 2006 to carry out the raid in which Sergeant Gilad Shalit was taken hostage.