IDF reported uncovering a major tunnel near Erez crossing that is the largest found so far, reportedly built by Hamas over years at high cost (WSJ)
Tunnel said to be wide enough for vehicles, reach up to 50m deep, have electricity and rails (CNN)
Hamas footage shows vehicle driving inside tunnel during construction (IDF via CNN)
Israel says tunnel meant for attacks, ends near crossing used by Palestinians (Reuters)
Brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said to have led tunnel building project (IDF via Multiple sources)
The Palestinian Authority views the tunnels as a challenge to its authority and wants its own security forces to take control of Gaza after any conflict. It rejects Hamas control of Gaza.
Human rights groups are concerned about the impact on civilians, as tunnels are located near homes and hospitals. They criticize the destruction of infrastructure vital to Gazans.
Egypt is concerned about Hamas tunnels under its border being used by militants to launch attacks on Egyptian territory or move weapons. It has taken measures to crack down on smuggling tunnels.
Some security analysts view the tunnels as impressive engineering accomplishments showing Hamas's capabilities. They warn of the risk if tunnels extend into Israeli territory.
The UN is focused on humanitarian needs, calling for ceasefires and access to provide aid. It wants to avoid a worsening crisis and further loss of life.
The Israeli military announced on Sunday that it had uncovered a major tunnel system near the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza, which it claims is the largest such tunnel found so far (WSJ, CNN, Hindustan Times). According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the tunnel is approximately 4 km long and wide enough for vehicles to drive through. It reaches up to 50 meters underground and contains rails, electricity, ventilation and communications infrastructure (CNN, FT).
The IDF alleges the tunnel was built over a period of years by the Palestinian militant group Hamas at a cost of millions of dollars. It says the tunnel was intended to facilitate a large-scale attack on Israel and ends just 400 meters from Erez crossing, which connects Israel and Gaza and is used by Palestinians to enter Israel for work and medical care (Reuters, WSJ).
Video footage released by the IDF, purportedly obtained from Hamas, shows a vehicle driving inside the tunnel during its construction as well as a makeshift rail system (CNN, Hindustan Times). The IDF claims the tunnel system was masterminded by Mohammed Sinwar, brother of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar (IDF via multiple sources).
According to Israel, a stockpile of weapons was found inside the tunnel, demonstrating it was built explicitly for attacks (Hindustan Times). An IDF spokesperson stated the tunnel’s proximity to Erez crossing shows Hamas prioritizes attacking Israel over supporting Gazans (Reuters). Israel says it aims to eliminate Hamas and ensure Gaza is demilitarized (Hindustan Times).
Hamas has not directly acknowledged building this specific tunnel, but it has previously admitted developing an extensive underground network in Gaza. Hamas says the tunnels are needed to defend Gazans and smuggle goods given the blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007 (CNN). Hundreds of tunnels connect Gaza with Egypt, allowing movement of people, goods and weapons. Israel has found and destroyed hundreds of tunnels it claims Hamas uses for attacks (CNN).
When Israel uncovered the tunnel entrance, it was unknown to Israeli intelligence and the military prior to its discovery, according to reports (Haaretz). The packed sand and concrete tunnel has multiple branches and rooms (Times of Israel).
The Palestinian Authority views control over Gaza’s security as its responsibility and rejects Hamas control there. It wants its forces reinstated in Gaza (Walla via JP). Hamas rejects releasing prisoners or ceasing attacks until Israel ends its military operation in Gaza (Al Jazeera via JP).
Human rights groups criticize the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. The UN is focused on the humanitarian crisis, calling for immediate ceasefires (Perspective).