Israeli forces battling Hamas claim to have uncovered the largest Hamas tunnel found in Gaza, designed to carry carloads of Hamas fighters up to the border with Israel.
Neutralising the hundreds of kilometres of underground tunnels and bunkers in Gaza is among the aims of the Israeli offensive, launched after Hamas fighters went on a killing and kidnapping spree after entering Israeli territory on 7 October.
Among the sites Hamas overran in the attack was the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel.
Just 100m south of the checkpoint, concealed in a sand dune, the Israeli military on Sunday showed reporters the exit point of what it called a flagship Hamas project.
The tunnel ran down diagonally to a depth of 50m, where it expanded to 3m in height and width, and appeared equipped with ventilation and electricity systems.
The Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, put the full length of the tunnel at 4km – enough to reach into northern Gaza City, once the heart of Hamas governance and now a devastated combat zone.
It was “the biggest tunnel we found in Gaza… meant to target the (Erez) crossing,” Rear Admiral Hagari said, without specifying whether it was used by Hamas for the 7 October attacks.
“Millions of dollars were invested in this tunnel. It took years to build this tunnel… Vehicles could drive through,” he added.
Hamas has not yet commented on the IDF’s claims.
In general, other tunnels shown to journalists by Hamas, or by the Israeli military after their discovery, have been narrow and low – designed for single-file movement of gunmen on foot.
The latest tunnel shown by Rear Admiral Hagari had shafts plunging vertically downward that, he said, suggested it was part of a wider network.
Rear Admiral Hagari also showed reporters a video of Mohammed Sinwar, brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and himself a senior operative in the group, sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle that he said was being driven inside the tunnel.
On 29 October, Israel’s Ynet news site reported that troops killed several gunmen who attacked Erez after accessing the area from a tunnel.
Rear Admiral Hagari’s office did not respond to a question about whether that referred to the tunnel he showed.