Published October 14, 2013
The discovery of a secret tunnel from the Gaza Strip into Israel has prompted the Israeli government to order an immediate halt of all construction materials to Gaza.
The Israeli military found the mile-long underground passage running between a home in a Hamas-controlled area, and a site close to a kibbutz (community settlement) last Monday, according to a BBC report.
An Israeli Army spokesman said the tunnel could have been used to attack or kidnap civilians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the army for finding the tunnel, but warned that the "quietest year in over a decade" had been disturbed by recent militant activities.
Just last month, Israel lifted a ban on the transfer of building materials in the private sector, but this recent discovery has broken the trust.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said exposing what he described as the "terror tunnel" was "further proof that Hamas continues to prepare for confrontation with Israel and for carrying out terror attacks, if it feels it is possible.”
"Since construction materials were used to dig the tunnel, I instructed, over the weekend, to halt the transfer of these materials to the Gaza Strip," Yaalon said.
In Gaza, leaders of the militant Palestinian group Hamas accused Israel of "exaggerating things."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri suggested the Israelis were trying to use the tunnel as a tool to “justify the blockade and continuous aggression on the Gaza Strip," the BBC reported.
A spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, al Qassam Brigades, indicated the group would not be deterred, saying on Twitter that "the minds which manage to dig the tunnel can dig dozens more."
Local authorities found the tunnel when kibbutz residents complained of hearing strange noises from the heavily fortified border area.
The army assured residents that the explosives found inside the tunnel were no longer a threat. The passageway is nearly 60 feet deep, probably took at least a month to dig, and appeared to be recently used.
Palestinian militants have a history of attacks from Gaza. In 2006, Hamas fighters sneaked into Israel and seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, holding him hostage in Gaza for more than five years.
Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza when Hamas took power in 2007, but has gradually eased restrictions since 2010.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.