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Israeli army discovers large tunnel in Gaza believed to be used for Oct. 7 attacks



Israeli military discovered a large tunnel shaft in Gaza close to major Erez crossing (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israeli military says it has excavated a large tunnel shaft in Gaza close to the major Erez crossing with Israel.

The tunnel spanned over four kilometers in length and is wide enough for a man of average height to stand up in.

The tunnel is part of Hamas’s extensive network of underground tunnels and bunkers, known to Israeli military planners as the “metro”.

Israel has targeted strikes against the tunnels, which are used by Hamas to transport weapons and people without detection by Israeli air surveillance.

The tunnels have been used in the past for smuggling and rudimentary military operations, including to mine Israeli positions and to kidnap the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

They have also been a major security challenge and a serious obstacle for Israeli forces attempting to operate in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the current situation in Gaza is tense and volatile, as a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas is fragile and frequently violated.

Israeli soldiers exit a tunnel that the military says Hamas militants used to attack the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli soldiers exit a tunnel that the military says Hamas militants used to attack the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt on 13 December 2023, after three days of intense violence that killed at least 44 Palestinians and one Israeli.

However, since then, both sides have accused each other of breaking the truce and launching attacks.

On 15 December, Israel carried out air strikes on Gaza, saying it was targeting Hamas sites in response to rocket fire². On 16 December, Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, injuring two people.

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On 17 December, Israel said it had uncovered a large tunnel shaft near the Gaza border, which it said was part of Hamas’s underground network⁴.

The latest escalation of violence is the most serious since the 11-day conflict in May 2021, which killed more than 260 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

The situation in Gaza is also worsened by the humanitarian crisis, as the enclave of two million people faces shortages of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UN has warned that the situation is “dire” and “unsustainable” and has called for urgent humanitarian aid and access to Gaza.

The international community has also urged both sides to respect the ceasefire and resume dialogue to prevent further bloodshed and suffering.

So far, the death toll in Gaza is a matter of controversy and uncertainty, as different sources report different numbers and methods of counting.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, the death toll as of Sunday, December 17, 2023, was 18,787, including 4,630 children.

However, this number has been publicly doubted by Israel and the US, who claim that Hamas has a propaganda incentive to inflate civilian casualties and that the ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Some international organizations, such as the UN’s World Health Organization, have said they have no reason to disbelieve the Gaza Health Ministry’s data.

The Gaza Health Ministry has published a list of names, ages, and identification numbers of 6,747 people that it says have been killed in Gaza since October 7, 2023.

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The Israeli military has announced the death of 126 soldiers in the ground operation in Gaza.

The death toll in Israel, which was initially reported as 1,400, was later revised down to about 1,200.

The death toll in both sides may be higher than the official numbers, as some bodies may remain trapped under rubble or buried without being recorded.

Hamas is an Islamist militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ two major political parties.

It governs more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but the group is best known for its armed resistance to Israel.

Hamas was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its primary goal is to liberate historic Palestine and destroy the state of Israel, as stated in its founding charter.

Hamas has a political wing and a military wing, known as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has carried out numerous attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings, rocket fire, and tunnel raids.

It’s role in Gaza is both political and military; on the one hand, it provides social services, such as health care, education, and welfare, to the people of Gaza, and claims to represent their interests and aspirations.

On the other hand, it maintains a large arsenal of weapons and fighters, and continues to challenge Israel’s occupation and blockade of Gaza through armed resistance.

Hamas has effectively controlled Gaza since 2005, when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the territory.

In 2006, Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian Authority’s legislature, but its government was not recognized by Israel, the US, and other Western countries, who consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

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In 2007, Hamas seized full control of Gaza after a violent conflict with its rival party, Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

Since then, Gaza has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, which has caused a humanitarian crisis and economic hardship for the population.

Hamas’s actions have provoked several wars with Israel, the most recent one being on 7th October 2023, when Hamas launched a massive attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages.

The unprecedented attack triggered a devastating war that has raged for more than 10 weeks and claimed thousands of lives in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel responded with air strikes and a ground invasion of Gaza, which killed more than 18,600 people, mostly civilians.

The war ended with a fragile ceasefire on 13 December 2023, with the underlying issues yet to be resolved.

Israel says the destruction of Hamas’ tunnel network is a major objective and that much of the underground network runs beneath schools, hospitals and residential areas.

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