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Israel’s arrest of Hamas ‘Tunnel Man’ leads to discovery of extensive tunnel network

Another Hamas tunnel—the second in three weeks—giving Palestinians access into Israel was discovered on its border with Gaza Thursday, while Israeli authorities also revealed new information on a recent arrest of a Hamas operative with knowledge of the group's extensive tunnel network, Israel's military confirmed. Over the past two days, Israel’s effort to locate tunnels along the border has resulted in a violent flare-up with Hamas militants firing at Israeli soldiers, in breach of the cease-fire that was agreed upon in the aftermath of the summer 2014 war in Gaza. This tunnel was discovered in part by information that Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency gleaned over the last month, resulting from the arrest of Hamas operative Mohammad Atuna, 29, a member of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades who was arrested in early April by Israel’s security forces after attempting to infiltrate Israel from Gaza. Atuna’s arrest has given Israeli authorities information about Hamas tunnel structures, locations, materials, their use of private homes and internal tunnels to ship militants around Gaza without detection, tunnels for armed forces and even relaxation rooms and showers to enjoy the experience. Atuna also revealed the names of militants and weapon storage facility locations. He pinpointed where Hamas started new digging projects, according to Israeli media. Atuna admitted to Israeli authorities that he had massive amounts of arms at his home, including IEDs, rifles and suicide vests. At the time of his arrest, Atuna was in possession of two knives and told investigators he had planned to carry out a stabbing attack intending to kill soldiers or civilians, "whoever came his way first," The Foreign Desk translated from Israeli media sources. Atuna also told authorities that he was an active member of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades involved in terror activities against Israel, including planting explosives against Israel’s Defense Forces. In recent years, he said, he had been focusing his efforts on coordinating the growth of Hamas’ underground tunnel network. The public announcement about the discovery comes just a day after a new round of violence along the Gaza/Israel border, where there have been 10 instances of Hamas fire against Israeli soldiers in the area. Hamas, Gaza's de facto government, has not claimed responsibility for the shelling and did not comment on the announcement of the tunnel's discovery. Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Thursday’s tunnel discovery was situated 28 meters (yards) below the surface and that an investigation was underway to determine whether it was dug before or after the 2014 war. Israel has focused on beefing up its technological capabilities for locating clandestine underground passages after it was discovered in the 2014 war in Gaza that Hamas was utilizing this method to access and attack Israeli civilians.
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