An investigation reveals that the troops were hit by a powerful explosive device that contained diesel oil. "Hamas estimated that the IDF was preparing to destroy the tunnel and that troops would be entering," the officer said,
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"Had we deployed troops, it would have left room for them to consider kidnapping a soldier. It is my belief that Hamas will not expand its operations. We were not caught by surprise and had prepared ourselves. We turned the tunnels from an advantage to a liability for Hamas."
Exploding the tunnel outline (Video: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The officer estimated that Hamas will not retaliate to the death of its leaders.
He rejected reports that the IDF met an ambush and claimed that the soldiers were prepared for the possibility that explosives will be planted on the western side of the fence after the tunnels were exposed. "The device was not detonated from inside the tunnel but from above the ground. We used a drill which collapsed a part of the tunnel, exposing an obstruction created by Hamas. It was the drill which activated the charge. The wounded soldiers insisted to complete the mission and receive medical treatment later," he noted.
Later, a Hamas anti-tank unit was spotted about a kilometer beyond the fence, on the Gaza side, and soldiers opened fire and killed one member. The IDF pursued the mission and detonated the underground space using 2,800 kgs of explosives. Afterwards, the Air Force lobbed a bomb on a deeper part of the tunnel, killing the three Hamas experts.
"We estimated that the moment Hamas realizes we know about the tunnel, they will plant a charge there and we were prepared for it," a top officer in the Southern Command explained.
"This is a big morale achievement for the soldiers and we'll keep investing a lot, also technologically, in locating tunnels," the officer said. "Hamas is still in distress, and is deterred. I've no doubt Hamas will try and portray this as a great achievement, also by Khaled Mashaal, and will soon distribute videos of the tunnel explosion. But it will not use this tunnel for the strategic attack it planned."
The officer also commented on the incident's timing – the same day the security detail for the Gaza-vicinity communities was removed: "No offence, this action was far more important for the security of the communities than this or that soldier who stands idly in a guard post in one of the communities."
The wounded arrived tonight in Soruka Medical Center, including the officer in serious condition. He was taken to the operating room, where surgery was performed on his eyes and face.
In the morning he was taken for additional treatment and supervision in the intensive care unit. According to the medical staff, he will need more surgery, but his life is not in danger.
The other injured are treated in different wards, suffering mainly wounds, cuts and burns around the face and eyes, caused by shrapnel.
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