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Israel discovers new 'infiltration tunnel' from Gaza

The Israeli military has uncovered a cross-border tunnel from Gaza into Israel - the first uncovered since the 2014 war. Although Hamas implied it had built the tunnel, Israel downplayed the prospect of renewed conflict.

A view of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013

Israel uncovered a new Hamas-dug tunnel similar to this one, which was uncovered in October 2013

A fresh infiltration tunnel

extending from the Gaza strip into Israeli territory

was discovered and destroyed, reported Israeli military on Monday.

"We have neutralized the tunnel in Israeli territory, rendering it unusable for infiltration by Hamas terrorists," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. He did not give further information on how exactly the tunnel was destroyed.

"It was built by Hamas in order to infiltrate and execute terror attacks against the people of the southern communities and (military) forces in that area," Lerner said. The tunnel, which was hundreds of meters long, reportedly included concrete slabs, "communication lines," ventilation and rails to cart away dirt from digging.

The military branch of Hamas,

the Ezzedine al-Qassam, said the discovery was "only a drop in the ocean of what the resistance has prepared in order [to] defend our people, the freedom of the holy places and its land and captives."

In 2014, as part of a major military mobilization in Gaza, Israel destroyed some 30 tunnels dug by Hamas under the border. At the end of the conflict, Hamas vowed to rebuild its tunnel network.

With US help, Israel has stepped up work on technologies for spotting such underground passages. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu credited "a world-first breakthrough in tunnel-locating capabilities" for the find.

Despite the discovery, Israel said the existence of the tunnel does not necessarily mean a renewed conflict is looming.

"We do not seek conflict, but if Hamas tries to provoke the State of Israel and disrupt the lives of residents of the Gaza periphery communities, it will be dealt a very strong blow," Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement on Monday.

The Gaza war in the summer of 2014 killed more than 2,100 Palestinians. Gaza medical sources and UN officials say two-thirds of the casualties were civilians,

a figure disputed by Israel,

which lost 67 troops and six civilians in the fighting.

rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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