JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Israeli army uncovered a tunnel under the border between Gaza and Israel this week that could have been used to attack Israelis, an IDF officer said on Friday.
Some say this week's discovery of another tunnel dug deep under the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip should shatter any remaining illusions that the residents of the coastal enclave -- or at least their leaders -- want to be friends.
According to a statement by the IDF's (Israel Defense Forces) Spokesman's Office, the tunnel varies in depth and opens hundreds of meters (yards) inside Israel.
The IDF uncovered three such tunnels in 2013. One of them -- tall enough for an average man to stand upright -- had caches of explosives along the way.
In a statement released on Friday, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said "the operational assumption is that Hamas and other terror organizations continue to tunnel and prepare points of attack against Israel and its civilians."
Lerner said the builders intended "to pose a direct threat to Israeli territory and enable Hamas terrorists to reach and harm Israeli civilians," noting that in the past Gaza-based terrorists had used such tunnels to attack and abduct Israeli citizens.
That was the case with Cpl. Gilad Shalit, kidnapped during a cross-border attack on an IDF outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza in June 2006.
A Hamas-led terror cell that tunneled under the border and took the soldiers by surprise, killing two, wounding three and dragging an injured Shalit back through the tunnel to Gaza. There, he was held as a bargaining chip for more than five years. After prolonged negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the tough decision to exchange more than 1,000 Arab terrorists for Shalit.
Since then, the IDF has thwarted a number of kidnapping attempts along both the southern and northern borders and inside the country, targeting soldiers in particular.