Israel destroyed a vast Hamas attack tunnel system that ran into Israel and Egypt. The third major cross-border tunnel destroyed in the past two months.

We reported on one of those prior tunnel destructions last October, Israel’s IDF Obliterates Gaza Attack Tunnel.

What made this tunnel important was that it ran under both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Much as Hamas hides its rockets in civilian areas and uses civilians as human shields, these tunnels used critical civilian infrastructure as shiels. The tunnels ran under pipelines used to send fuel to Gaza, and underneath a key crossing into Israel through which most humanitarian supplies sent to Gaza are sent.

This video from the Israel Defense Forces shows the layout of the tunnel in relations to the borders and pipelines:

The Times of Israel reports:

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said it had destroyed a border-crossing Hamas attack tunnel, the third in recent months, that penetrated hundreds of meters into both Israeli and Egyptian territory from the Gaza Strip, in an airstrike in southern Gaza on Saturday night.

“We completed the destruction of a third terror tunnel,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters early Sunday morning, denying claims made by Hamas that it was a smuggling tunnel.

The tunnel, which was constructed differently from most tunnels in Gaza, began in the city of Rafah and crossed into Israel under the Kerem Shalom Crossing, through which hundreds of trucks ordinarily cross into the coastal enclave with goods from Israel each day, he said.

“We understand this tunnel belongs to Hamas,” Conricus added, saying the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset.”

That assessment came from the fact that the tunnel ran underneath the Gaza crossing, which was kept closed on Sunday, as well as below the gas and diesel pipelines into the Strip and a nearby IDF post, he said.

Tunnels have been a major strategic asset of Hamas and other terror groups, and were used with some effect during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Cross-border tunnels are frequently shown to visiting diplomats:

http://youtu.be/TlvnkECJkYc

Amos Harel at Haaretz reports on the implications:

The destruction of the Hamas tunnel on the Gaza border Saturday night supports the conclusion that Israel has found a defense against the threat of attack tunnels under the Strip. Even if the defense isn’t perfect, it’s pretty effective. The tunnel that was identified and blown up over the weekend near the Kerem Shalom crossing, near where Egypt, Israel and Gaza meet, is reportedly the fourth to be found by Israel since October.

The latest tunnel demolition worsens Hamas’ dilemma on how it should act as Israel gradually deprives it of one of its main offensive assets. The finding of the latest tunnel isn’t directly related to the barrier that Israel has been putting up along the Gaza border. Saturday’s tunnel was found in an area where work on the barrier hasn’t yet begun.

But the combination of technology, intelligence and operational means, along with the planned completion of most of the security barrier by year-end, show that the clock is ticking for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (The first tunnel destroyed belonged to the smaller Islamic Jihad.) As Hamas leaders’ would view them, the tunnels are a strategic project in which hundreds of millions of shekels have been invested over nearly a decade, involving thousands of laborers and fighters. And now all this may be going down the drain.

Beyond the strategic implications, that Hamas spends so much money and effort on building tunnels will be met with near silence from the UN and so-called human rights groups which complain about living conditions in Gaza. If Hamas was interested in improving the lives of Gazans, it would build homes and civilian infrastructure, not attack tunnels.