JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Hamas-built tunnel from Gaza into Israel aimed at executing terror attacks has been discovered, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday.
The concrete-lined tunnel is the first to be found since Operation Protective Edge, the summer 2014 Gaza war, according to the IDF, which worked in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service in discovering the tunnel. The IDF said it has destroyed the tunnel openings on both the Israeli and Gazan sides.
In a statement Monday, the IDF said the tunnel was built by the terrorist organization Hamas “in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks against the people of the southern communities.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “investing considerable capital” in countering the tunnels, and that the effort “will not end overnight.”
“Israel will respond strongly to any attempt to attack its soldiers and civilians,” he said in his own statement Monday. “I am certain that Hamas understands this very well.”
But Hamas vowed that the destruction of this tunnel did not signal an end to conflict, according to the Times of Israel.
“What the enemy has discovered is only a drop in the sea from what the resistance has prepared to defend its people, to liberate the holy places, its prisoners and land,” Hamas’s military wing said in a statement Monday.
The 2014 war, which saw more than 2,100 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis killed, was fought largely over the tunnels. Following several attempted infiltrations into Israel, the IDF invaded Gaza hoping to root out the tunnel network, resulting in brutal battles across the coastal territory. Israel withdrew after destroying or otherwise eliminating the threat of some three dozen tunnels.
The tunnel discovered Monday began in a southern Gaza residential neighborhood, according to Haaretz. On the Israel side it is located between the border fence Kibbutz Holit, as well as several Israeli military bases near the Gaza border, and was dug about 100 feet below ground. It is also hundreds of yards long, according to unnamed military sources quoted in the Israeli media.
It is not known when the tunnel was constructed and how many branches it has. Hamas officials reportedly said the tunnel was constructed before the 2014 war.