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Israeli forces find first tunnel from Gaza into Israel since 2014 war

April 18, 2016 11:23 A.M. (Updated: April 18, 2016 9:56 P.M.)
Israeli forces discover Gaza tunnel April 18, 2014. (Source: IDF)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces have uncovered and destroyed a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel -- the first to be found since Israel's devastating military offensive on the coastal enclave in 2014.

The Israeli army on Monday lifted a gag order on the discovery of the tunnel earlier this week. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma'an the tunnel had been found and destroyed on both sides of the border.

Reaching 30 meters deep at certain points, the tunnel reportedly extended from the southeast of the Gaza Strip, crossing the border to where Israeli military bases and towns are located.

Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner said in a statement: "The ugly truth is that Hamas continues to invest millions of dollars to build tunnels of terror and death. The tunnel uncovered in Israel demonstrates once more Hamas' warped priorities and continued commitment and investment in tools of violence."

The Coordinator of Israeli Government's Activities in the Palestinian Territory Yoav Mordechai also confirmed the tunnel's discovery, saying: "Hamas continues to dig tunnels ignoring Gaza citizens' rights to live in dignity."

Commenting on the issue, Hamas’ military wing the al-Qassam Brigades said, “this tunnel is just a drop in the ocean of what the resistance has prepared for the defense of its people and the liberation of holy places, land, and prisoners.”

In the statement, issued shortly after the Israeli announcement, the group said Israeli forces had exerted huge efforts only to achieve something that could distract the public from Israel's "failure" in recent months and lighten the state of panic in Israel, particularly felt in towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

The group added that they would choose the right time to publish details “the enemy hasn’t revealed” about the tunnel.

There have been reports in recent months that Hamas has expanded its tunnel network -- used mainly for military purposes in the northern Gaza Strip and smuggling in the south -- since Israel's 2014 offensive on Gaza left much of it destroyed.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of "preparing" for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole. However, despite Hamas' inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, the movement has not claimed responsibility for any military action against Israel since the 2014 war.

The movement has been pitched against a number of smaller armed groups inside the territory that have made a name for themselves as unafraid to challenge Hamas -- seeking to outbid them in the fight against Israel and the defense of Islam.

Israel began its 2014 offensive on Gaza with the declared aim of ending all rocket fire from the coastal enclave. However, as the conflict wore on, with no end in sight to the rocket fire, Israel sought in part to redefine its aims, with the destruction of tunnels to Israel from Gaza given as one of its key targets.

According to Israeli army figures, Israeli forces destroyed 32 tunnels during the 50-day war, 14 of which crossed the border into Israel. The offensive also left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead while devastating swathes of the Gaza Strip which have yet to be rebuilt.
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