Correspondent (Asia: Middle East & Central)
JERUSALEM — The military wing of Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement have claimed responsibility for an underground tunnel beneath heavily fortified Israel-Gaza frontier in order to put pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners. A website for the Hamas radio station Al-Aqsa said the groups armed wing was responsible for what they called the Khan Younis tunnel, named after a part of the coastal territory where the tunnel was discovered.
Abu Ubaida, a spokesperson for Hamas said, “This tunnel was made by the hand of the fighters of (Izzadine) Al-Qassam and they will not sleep in their efforts to hit the occupation and kidnap soldiers. We are working on the ground and under the ground to release the prisoners [held by Israel]. Kidnapping soldiers is the only way to succeed against the occupation.”
The tunnel, which Israeli officials uncovered on October 7 was 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, starting from Abbasan Al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Yunis in Gaza and terminated inside Israel about three kilometres from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negrev. Upon its discovery, Israel banned imports of construction materials into Gaza. For years, Israel refused to allow these goods into the territory because they accused militants of building such fortifications and weapons. In June 2006, a Hamas group moved into Israel through a cross-border tunnel, kidnapping Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and sneaking him back to Gaza where he was held captive. He was released on October 18, 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. The trade was feted by Hamas as “a historic victory.”