IDF reports uncovered tunnel on Gaza border reached depth of 22 meters, dug over two years, never completed. ‘Builders, planners – everyone will pay the price,’ major general promises
Yoav Zitun, YNET [Go here to see many pictures]
They were digging for two years. Using hammers, drills and shovels, laying thousands of arches and cement blocks – some Israeli made – with an overall weight of 500 tons, laying electrical and phone cables.
The tunnel exposed last week by the IDF on the border with the Gaza Strip was exceptionally sophisticated and long, measuring approximately 1.7 km.
“This is the first time we pinpoint the location of a tunnel and expose it,” a top defense official said on Sunday. Over the last few days large engineering forces employed bulldozers and trucks to uncover the tunnel’s openings and trajectory, and revealed a tunnel of astounding sophistication.
The tunnel starts near the village of Absan al-Zarir, east of Khan Yunis. The exit – 300 meters inside Israeli territory, in an uncultivated wheat field.
The tunnel’s average depth is 18 meters, and it reached a maximum depth of 22 meters below ground on the Palestinian side. Inside, the tunnel was high enough to allow a man to walk freely.
The cables which lined the tunnel walls allowed for uninterrupted communications with base, as well as ample lighting with energy-saving halogens.
Bags of construction material, some of it Egyptian-made, show that the construction was not over, and it is unclear how far into Israel the Palestinians planned to go. The builders inscribed the walls with their names.
Soldiers found various edibles and wrappings inside the tunnel, which testify to the long time the builders most likely spent inside: Sausages, chocolate wrappers dated to June, and a dairy-beverage which expired at 22/6/2013.
Intelligence estimates, thorough exploration
The tunnel was not exposed by accident, as in previous cases, but due to Gaza Division and Southern Command estimations and ground reports from patrols.
In January 2013, several weeks after Operation Pillar of Defense ended, a large tunnel collapsed in Israeli territory near the border fence as a result of rain-induced floods in the area. IDF troops were called in to the area, and discovered the tunnel was part of a vast system of burrows, thereby estimating that many other tunnels might be stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.
The Gaza Brigade set out to trace any other tunnels Gazans may have built, utilizing intelligence and technological tools.
Some two weeks ago, engineering troops had started scouring a wheat field between Ein Hashlosha and the border fence. Following a thorough exploratory operation of several hundred meters, the troops determined a tunnel was underneath the field.
The site was then isolated and declared a closed military zone. Golani Brigade and Armored Corps secured the compound, as bulldozers exposed the underground routes. Combat soldiers then entered the tunnels to ensure that no explosives were placed in the burrows.