JERUSALEM — The Israeli military announced Monday that its engineering corps had destroyed an offensive Hamas tunnel that stretched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.
The tunnel reached 30 to 40 yards into Israel near a farming community in southern Israel. It was reinforced with pre-fabricated concrete slabs and had lights, communications lines and rail tracks used by the diggers to ferry the dirt out of the tunnel.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the tunnel was the first one discovered since Israel’s 2014 summer war with the Islamist militant movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
“The working assumption is that this is not the only tunnel penetrating into Israel, that there are others,” he said.
During the 2014 war with Hamas, Israeli troops discovered and destroyed 32 tunnels around the Gaza periphery and said that 14 had penetrated into Israel.
Hamas militants emerged from at least one such offensive tunnel during the war and attacked and killed Israeli soldiers.
Residents of the Israeli communities along the Gaza perimeter fear that Hamas fighters could emerge from the tunnels and kill civilians in their farms and towns.
More than a dozen tunnel diggers working for Hamas have died in recent months in collapses underground.
In Gaza on Monday, Hamas officials said that the Israelis had found an old tunnel no longer in use.
Lerner disputed this.
“This is a new tunnel that was newly discovered and destroyed,” said the spokesman, who declined to reveal the exact length and location of the tunnel.