The IDF neutralized a Hamas terror tunnel on Thursday that infiltrated 200 meters into Israel from the Khan Younis area in the central Gaza Strip, the IDF Spokesman's Office said.
This is the 15th tunnel the IDF has destroyed since October 2017, and it is a part of a complex network of Hamas attack tunnels. The kilometer-long tunnel, which was divided into several branches, had electricity and was connected to communication networks.
The IDF said the new tunnel was unique in "the development of construction methods, the use of different materials, (and) it has several bends and turns and links to the network of fighting tunnels." The new construction methods are believed to be part of Hamas efforts to avoid Israeli detection of the tunnels.
The IDF had been monitoring its construction for several months. "The decision on the timing of the work (to neutralize the tunnel) has to do with operational considerations, as well as the fact the tunnel connects to a network of fighting tunnels inside the strip," said IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. "We studied and investigated the tunnel to improve our fighting capabilities facing the threat of Hamas's tunnels network inside the strip."
"The tunnel effort continues all the time and is being led by the Gaza Division with technological and engineering capabilities. (Finding) this tunnel shows a development in our abilities to locate tunnels," Manelis added.
IDF English-language spokesperson Jonathan Conricus declined to elaborate on how the tunnel was destroyed, but said "combat engineering means" were used.
Israel has in recent months employed technology to detect and destroy tunnels without bombing them, including by filling them with material to make them unusable.
Israel is also building an underground wall around the blockaded Gaza Strip to stop tunnel digging. Work on the massive project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The construction of the 20-kilometer-long overground barrier on the Gaza Strip border, meanwhile, has been completed.
“Today, we can say we have newly improved technological means for the discovery, location and thwarting of tunnel activity,” said the IDF spokesman.
“We are in control of a few tunnels that Hamas was planning on using for a terrorist attack inside Israeli borders,” he added.
Israel accuses Hamas of investing funds in terror infrastructure, rather than civil engineering. “The price of such a tunnel, especially considering the attempt to connect it to phone and power lines, comes out of someone's pocket, at the expense of the civilians of Gaza,” Manelis said.
“Hamas chooses to invest funds in tunnels rather than taking care of its civilians, and that is a sign for the strip’s inhabitants that their regime prefers to invest in terror rather than in other things,” he went on to say.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted on Thursday that, “We don't stop for a minute, under and above ground. The terror tunnel we have destroyed today is another tunnel that Hamas will not have for the next campaign. Every day we move closer towards eradicating the tunnel weapon.”
On Thursday morning, the Iron Dome missile defense system fired interceptors over what the IDF later said was a false alarm, stressing there was no fire at Israel.
The Code Red rocket alert siren blared through Israeli communities on the Gaza border at 10:07am—in Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council and Sdot Negev Regional Council and in the city of Netivot.
Earlier, military police blocked several roads near the Gaza border due to IDF security activity in the area.
Meanwhile, the incendiary balloon attacks continue unabated: a large fire broke out in the Shikma Stream Park, east of Kibbutz Zikim. Four firefighter teams and army engineering vehicles are at the scene, but the fire, which is raging near agricultural facilities, is not yet under control.
It is the first incendiary balloon fire in the Gaza border region Thursday, while seven such fires took place Wednesday and were all contained by the firefighter teams.