Israel reveals workplace where tunnels are constructed in Gaza

Inside Hamas’s ‘terror factory’: Israel reveal workplace – hidden beside school for deaf children – where tunnels are mass produced and show newly-discovered passages fitted with blast doors and security cameras

Footage released by the Israeli military reveals a new network of tunnels in Gaza, it said on Wednesday, as well as a workplace used for constructing the passages.

The IDF said the videos show a ‘large network’ around Gaza City’s Palestine Square, fortified by blast doors and security cameras, as well as a workshop used to build tunnel components – hidden beside a school for deaf children.

Its discovery comes as Israeli forces continue their search for the Hamas leadership responsible for the October 7 attack that saw terrorists kill around 1,200 people in Israel and take a further 240 hostage back into Gaza.

Among the homes linked to the tunnel network were those of Muhammad Deif – the shadowy leader of Hamas’s military wing, and Yahya Sinwar – Hamas’s top official inside Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Palestine Square is located in the upscale Rimal neighbourhood, the once bustling centre of power in the coastal territory that was heavily bombed during the early days of the on-going war as Israel attempted to knock out Hamas’s leadership.

Footage released by the Israeli military revealed a new network of tunnels in Gaza , it said on Wednesday, as diplomatic efforts pressed on to secure a pause in fighting

A long stretch of tunnel is seen in the footage, before arriving at a blast door

Video released by the military shows Israeli soldiers uncovering the entrance to part of the tunnel network underneath a hatch door.

A spiral staircase leads to what appears to be a basement, where there is another tunnel shaft that delves even deeper into the ground below.

The soldiers are seen inspecting equipment set around the tunnel’s entrance, that appears to include a winch and a lift, presumably used for transporting equipment in and out of the subterranean system. A ladder also runs down the side of the shaft.

A narrator in the video says the troops also found what appeared to be a prayer room, with copies of the Quran and prayer mats.

They also appeared to find military equipment, such as rifles and grenades.

The camera then descends further down into the tunnel network, which is fitted with cables for electricity and plumbing, the footage shows. The clip also shows a security camera and a blast door at the end of a long stretch of the dark tunnel. 

Breaker boxes and other equipment are also highlighted in the footage.

The IDF says the tunnels were used daily by Hamas, and that they connected them to other parts of Gaza, allowing them to move underground without detection.

In a separate clip, also released by the IDF, a soldier is shown taking the camera through what the military says is a workshop used to build the tunnels ‘next door to a community college and a school for deaf children.’

The soldier, named as Lieutenant colonel Ido, says his unit found the workshop boobytrapped. They ‘neutralised the threat,’ he says, before finding materials and equipment used to construct the underground system.

The footage also appears to show a lift that leads further underground.

The army’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the army had located a vast underground complex. ‘They all used this infrastructure routinely, during emergencies and also at the beginning of the war on Oct. 7,’ he said. 

He said the tunnels stretched across Gaza and into major hospitals. 

The claims could not be independently verified. 

The soldier, named as Lieutenant colonel Ido (pictured), says his forces found the workshop boobytrapped. They ‘neutralised the threat,’ he says, before finding materials and equipment used to construct the underground system

The footage (pictured) also appears to show a lift that leads further underground

Another video released by the military shows Israeli soldiers uncovering the entrance to part of the tunnel network underneath a hatch door

Breaker boxes and other equipment are highlighted in the footage, with the IDF saying the tunnel is equipped with electricity and plumbing

The footage also shows military equipment in what the IDF says was the tunnel network

As it continues with its search for the Hamas leadership, the army reported close-quarter combat and more than 300 strikes over the past day. 

Israel’s army said three soldiers were killed on Wednesday, bringing the death toll of its forces to 137 in the Gaza Strip since ground operations began in late October. 

The United Nations said Israel had issued evacuation orders on Wednesday for large areas of Khan Yunis, where more than 140,000 displaced people were sheltering.

Israel told civilians to leave the north of the besieged Palestinian territory at the beginning of the conflict, urging them to seek safety in southern areas.

But as places for people to go continued to shrink, international outrage has mounted over the rising death toll.

The war began when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The Hamas government’s media office in the Gaza Strip said Wednesday at least 20,000 people had been killed in the Palestinian territory since the war with Israel began. It said 8,000 children and 6,200 women were among the dead.

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths deemed it a ‘tragic and shameful milestone’.

In the southern city of Rafah, where fireballs and smoke rose after explosions on Wednesday, residents expressed hope that truce talks would succeed.

‘I wish for a complete ceasefire, and to put an end to the series of death and suffering. It’s been more than 75 days,’ said Kassem Shurrab, 25.

Smoke is seen rising above Gaza following an air strike on Thursday

Hopes that Israel and Hamas could be inching towards another truce and hostage release deal have risen this week as the head of the Palestinian militant group visited Egypt and talks were held in Europe.

Qatar-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Egypt on Wednesday for talks with the country’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Haniyeh also met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian but no details were released.

A Hamas official told AFP news agency that ‘a total ceasefire and a retreat of the Israeli occupation army from the Gaza Strip are a precondition for any serious negotiation’ on a hostage-prisoner swap.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there could be no ceasefire in Gaza before the ‘elimination’ of Hamas.

And US President Joe Biden said of a fresh hostage release deal: ‘There’s no expectation at this point. But we are pushing it.’

Mossad director David Barnea held a ‘positive meeting’ in Warsaw this week with CIA chief Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, a source familiar with the talks told AFP.

Qatar, backed by Egypt and the US, last month helped broker a first week-long truce that saw 80 Israeli hostages freed in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, December 20

 Meanwhile, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported Thursday that Israeli forces carried out operations overnight in the West Bank.

An AFPTV live camera on Wednesday filmed two bombs hitting Rafah, where many of the territory’s estimated 1.9 million displaced have fled.

The Hamas health ministry said Israeli strikes killed at least 12 Palestinians when houses and a mosque in Rafah ‘were targeted’. It said later at least 30 more people were killed in an Israeli strike that hit two houses east of Khan Yunis.

Crowds swarmed the rubble, digging with shovels and a backhoe to try to free the victims. One blackened body lay under a blue blanket on the blood-soaked ground.

‘Enough, enough of this. We have lost everything and we can’t take it anymore,’ Samar Abu Luli, a woman in Rafah, said after Israeli strikes on the city’s Al-Shabura neighbourhood.

UN rights expert Francesca Albanese said Israel was assaulting Gaza’s health system, with their attacks ‘taking the most sadistic forms’.

The UN Security Council was due to try once again Thursday to pass a resolution calling for a halt in fighting after previous efforts to win Washington’s backing fell short.

Israel has rejected the term ‘ceasefire’, and the US has used its veto twice to thwart resolutions opposed by Israel since the start of the war.

The United Arab Emirates is sponsoring a draft resolution on the conflict which has already been watered down to secure compromise, according to a draft version seen by AFP.

It calls for ‘the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.’

Destruction in northern Gaza resulting from weeks of Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian territory is seen from Israel on Thursday

The war has sparked fears of regional escalation, with exchanges of fire over the Lebanon border, and missiles from Iran-backed Yemeni rebels disrupting Red Sea shipping.

Israel said Wednesday it had struck an ‘operational command centre’ used by Iran-backed Hezbollah militants and fired on fighters heading for the Lebanon-Israel border.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have launched missiles and drones at cargo ships in the Red Sea, warned Wednesday that they would strike back if attacked by US forces.

The warning came after the United States said it was building up a multinational naval task force to protect vessels transiting the Red Sea from the Huthi attacks, which have been carried out in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

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