JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said it destroyed a Hamas-built tunnel extending into its territory from the Gaza Strip on Thursday that was intended for attacks.
Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said it was the 15th such tunnel discovered and destroyed by Israel in the past year.
There were no indications of casualties linked to the destruction of the tunnel around one kilometer in length (less than a mile) and which originated from the Khan Yunis area of southern Gaza.
It extended around 200 meters (650 feet) into Israeli territory, Conricus said, adding Israel’s army had been monitoring its construction for several months.
He declined to elaborate on how the tunnel was destroyed, but said “combat engineering means” were used.
Conricus called it a “complex tunnel system with various connections and branches.”
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, Conricus said.
Conricus alleged Hamas used new methods in building the tunnel destroyed Thursday that seemed intended to evade Israel’s detection methods.
He declined however to provide specifics, but noted it was equipped with electricity and communication hardware.
The destruction of the tunnel comes amid months of protests and clashes along the Gaza border that have raised fears of a fourth war since 2008 between Israel and Hamas, the movement that runs the Palestinian enclave.
At least 198 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began on March 30, while one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in that time.
Israel says its actions during the protests and clashes are necessary to defend the border and stop infiltrations and attacks, which it accuses Hamas of seeking to carry out.
Palestinians and rights groups say protesters have been shot while posing little threat.
The last conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels that were used to carry out attacks within Israel.