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Israel destroys fifth Gaza tunnel in recent months Open in fullscreen

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Israel destroys fifth Gaza tunnel in recent months

An Israeli soldier near the entrance of a Gazan tunnel [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2018

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The tunnels are mainly used to smuggle food, fuel and construction materials into the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Tel Aviv said it destroyed the "longest and deepest" underground Gazan tunnel into Israel discovered so far, according to Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The tunnel was reportedly connected to a network dug by Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the impoverished Gaza Strip, in the northern region of the enclave that led to the Israeli community of Nahal Oz. It's the fifth such tunnel Israel has destroyed in recent months, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman.

Read more: Explainer: Life in Gaza under Israel's blockade
Conricus said the tunnel was next to the site of recent unrest on the border, where Palestinians launched the Great March of Return protests and Israel responded with sniper fire and tear gas.

Israeli forces shot and killed at least 34 unarmed Palestinian protesters calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  

Conricus says Hamas began building the tunnel following Israel's 2014 siege on Gaza that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and 10,000 wounded. Israeli security forces had been monitoring the tunnel for years, but chose to destroy it after it reached "tens of metres" into Israeli territory, according to the Israeli military.

Israel has placed a high priority on destroying the tunnels after Hamas infiltrated Israel during the 2014 war.

Israeli officials said the recent Great March of Return protests were cover for using the tunnels to make infiltration attempts into Israel. However, rights groups and the Palestinians say the tunnels are used to smuggle much-needed supplies and aid after Israel enacted its now decade-old blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The UN has warned that Gaza would be "unlivable" by 2020 due to Israel's blockade, which began after Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007.

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