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Israel finds giant tunnel adjoining to Gaza border, elevating new questions on prewar intelligence

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BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — The Israeli navy mentioned Sunday it has found a big tunnel shaft in Gaza near what was as soon as a busy crossing into Israel, elevating new questions on how Israeli surveillance missed such conspicuous preparations by Hamas for the militants’ lethal Oct. 7 assault.

The entryway to the tunnel is just some hundred meters (yards) from the closely fortified Erez crossing and a close-by Israeli navy base.

The navy mentioned it stretches for over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), hyperlinks up with a sprawling tunnel community throughout Gaza and is broad sufficient for automobiles to cross by means of. The military mentioned Sunday that the tunnel facilitated the transit of automobiles, militants, and provides in preparation for the Oct. 7 assault.

That day, militants used a rocket-propelled grenade to interrupt previous the portion of wall near the Erez crossing and stormed the bottom, killing at the least three troopers and kidnapping some again to Gaza, the military mentioned. It was one in all a number of locations alongside the border wall the place militants simply blew previous Israel’s safety defenses, entered Israeli territory and killed some 1,200 individuals and took about 240 others hostage.

The unprecedented assault triggered a devastating warfare that has raged for over 10 weeks and claimed over 18,000 lives within the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, in keeping with Palestinian well being officers. Israel says destruction of Hamas’ tunnel community is a serious goal and that a lot of the underground community runs beneath colleges, hospitals and residential areas.

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Israel’s navy, intelligence and political officers have come beneath heavy criticism for failing to detect the assault forward of time.

Maj. Nir Dinar, a navy spokesperson, mentioned that Israeli safety providers didn’t know concerning the tunnel earlier than Oct. 7 as a result of Israel’s border defenses solely detected tunnels meant to enter Israel.

“So far as I do know, this tunnel doesn’t cross from Gaza into Israel and stops inside 400 meters from the border, which suggests the indications received’t point out {that a} tunnel is being constructed,” Dinar mentioned. He added that the doorway, a round cement opening resulting in a cavernous passageway, was positioned beneath a storage, hiding it from Israeli drones and satellite tv for pc photos.

Whereas the navy was conscious that Hamas had an in depth tunnel community, Dinar mentioned they didn’t suppose the militants would be capable to perform their plans for a large-scale assault.

“It’s no shock that this was the Hamas technique all alongside,” Dinar mentioned. “The shock is that they’ve succeeded and the dimensions of this tunnel … was actually stunning.”

The Erez crossing, a fortress-like facility that processed the motion of Palestinians into Israel for work, medical care and transit to neighboring Jordan, held nice symbolic worth for Hamas. The large crossing was protected by safety cameras and navy patrols and the adjoining navy base. The crossing suffered heavy harm on Oct. 7 and has not reopened.

The military mentioned its particular “Yahalom” unit, which focuses on tunnel warfare, has labored to excavate the tunnel because it was first detected. They are saying they’ve discovered weapons inside.

“At this level, that is the largest tunnel in Gaza,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief navy spokesman, instructed reporters in a tour of the tunnel’s entrance on Friday.

It’s unclear if the tunnel was used on Oct. 7.

The military additionally confirmed reporters troopers’ barracks on the close by base that it mentioned had been set ablaze by the militants. They seemed just like the ashes of a furnace, with blackened partitions and smelted bunks. The navy introduced Friday that it had recovered in Gaza the our bodies of two troopers who had been working on the base on Oct. 7.

Dinar, who visited the tunnel Friday, mentioned it was twice the peak and 3 times the width of different tunnels present in Gaza. He mentioned it’s geared up with air flow and electrical energy and dives 50 meters (55 yards) underground in some factors. He mentioned it was clear that tens of millions of {dollars} in addition to an excessive amount of gas and workforce had been wanted to construct and maintain the tunnel.

Hagari mentioned the navy deliberate to destroy the tunnel and proceed to “hunt” militants hiding in others.

“We are going to hunt them even when we have to go all the way down to the tunnels,” Hagari mentioned. “We additionally have to do it with consideration to the rescue of our hostages and the understanding that perhaps a few of them are within the tunnels.”

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