JERUSALEM — Israel destroyed a tunnel dug by Hamas leading from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea intended for use by the Islamic militant group that rules the territory to carry out attacks, the military said Sunday.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that last week aircraft struck a position belonging to Hamas' naval forces in northern Gaza that incapacitated its first-of-a-kind tunnel to the sea.
He said it was designed to allow divers to slip out of Gaza and attack Israeli targets. The tunnel was dug about 3 kilometers south of the border with Israel and stretched dozens of meters (yards) into the sea, he said.
Israel has placed a high priority on eliminating the tunnel threat since Hamas gunmen infiltrated Israel during the 2014 war. Although they did not manage to reach civilian areas, the infiltrations caught Israel off guard, with one attack killing five soldiers and terrifying the local population.
There was no immediate word from Hamas, a group sworn to Israel's destruction, which rarely comments on specific strikes on its infrastructure.
A senior Israeli military official, speaking anonymously in line with protocol, said Hamas has dozens of frogmen and the assumption is that there are other undersea tunnels. He said they had diving gear that doesn't leave a trace above water.
Channel 10 TV's military correspondent said the entrance point of the tunnel was inside a Gaza house enabling Hamas to evade suspicion by entering the building in civilian clothes and once inside put on their diving suits and gear up with weapons.
The station said Hamas has invested millions to build the tunnels.