Israel finds second Hamas tunnel following Gaza air strikes
Israeli forces have uncovered a Hamas tunnel stretching across the border from Gaza the army said on Thursday.
The discovery is the second to take place in recent weeks and comes a day after Israel bombed Gaza, injuring four civilians amidst a flare-up in violence on the contentious border.
"We understand the tunnel was approximately 28 to 29 metres deep in the southern Gaza Strip, stretching from Gazan territory into Israel," an Israeli army spokesperson said.
He did not say how far into Israel the tunnel stretched, but confirmed that Israeli forces on the Gaza side of the border made the discovery and admitted that Israeli forces had recently been operating beyond the fence.
"We don't know to say if it's from before Operation Protective Edge or afterwards, but it is in good and usable condition," an army officer told Haaretz on the condition of anonymity.
A similar tunnel was also reportedly found on 18 April. The unearthing was the first since the devastating 2014 war in Gaza in which more than 2,200 Palestinians (mainly civilians) and more than 70 Israelis (mostly soldiers) were killed.
Early on Thursday, Israel ordered a series of air strikes on Gaza overnight seemingly in response to mortar fire that was reported to have been fired from Gaza to Israel on Wednesday. Four people, including three children, were injured in the Israeli bombing.
Israel says it targeted Hamas sites, but Hamas said that a combination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets were hit. Residents said that the bombing also hit a garage where the civilian injuries were reported.
Over the past two days, the Israeli army says that its soldiers, operating along the fence that tightly encloses the territory, have been repeatedly targeted from inside Gaza.
But army spokesman Peter Lerner has stressed that "Israel has no interest in escalation whatsoever".
The escalation is the biggest flare-up in months and raised concerns for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers that has held since the last round of major hostilities in the territory ended in summer 2014.
The Israeli army said that a major target of the strikes was suspected infiltration tunnels under the border like those whose destruction it cited as one of the principal achievements of the 2014 conflict.
Gaza has been devastated by three conflicts between Israel and its Hamas rulers and other Palestinian factions since 2008, and reconstruction has been painstakingly slow amid an Israeli blockade on all imports that could have military purposes.