TEL AVIV, Israel — A combination of intelligence, boots on the ground and a ground-breaking tunnel detection system led to discovery Thursday of another cross-border tunnel extending into Israeli territory from southern Gaza.
It was the second discovery in two months of the type of attack tunnels exposed during fierce urban combat in the summer 2014 war between Israel and the Hamas organization that controls the Gaza Strip.
As in a mid-April discovery of the subterranean border breach, the tunnel was destroyed.
"The tunnel was uncovered as part of extensive counterterror efforts of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that have taken place since Operation Protective Edge," the IDF said in a statement, referring to the 51-day war that began in July 2014.
"The tunnel was built by Hamas in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks against the people of southern communities. The IDF will continue its counterterror activities to uncover and neutralize Hamas' offensive tunnels," according to the statement.
Details about the Israeli-developed anti-tunnel system are classified, although the IDF has released footage and still photos of a drilling system that punctures the ground to activate detectors.
A recently retired general officer who is routinely briefed on the issue also declined to provide details, yet insisted, "It's working."
"The technology is maturing with each event. … They believe that a real operational solution is in hand," the former officer told Defense News.
When asked about the anti-tunnel technological solution, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, responded: "Technology, from our perspective, is a secret that is best well-kept."
"This is the second time [since the 2014 Gaza war] that we've exposed a tunnel … and the combination of technology, intelligence and boots on the ground have resulted in the success of this mission."
Last May, an official MoD video of the system — called Project Snake Pit — was briefly published and subsequently removed from a little-known religious Hebrew-language website called "In the Rooms of Haredim."
In the video, which bore the official logo of MoD's MAFAT Research and Development Directorate and featured defense and industry officials, Snake Pit was described as "based on technological foundations developed over years by Rafael and led by MAFAT and arrived at maturity through combined and intensive efforts by operational users."
It noted that the system was "incorporated during the course of Protective Edge and proved to be a significant operational contribution."
The MAFAT video was presented at a closed-door ceremony in April 2015 awarding excellence in breakthrough technologies and developments on behalf of Israeli security requirements.
Thursday's discovery took place amid continuing clashes between Hamas — which views these tunnels as strategic assets — and Israeli forces conducting anti-tunnel operations on both sides of Israel's border security fence.
In a 48-hour period from May 3 to early evening Thursday, Hamas had fired upon Israeli forces in 10 separate incidents, with Israel responding with tank fire and limited airstrikes.
"In the last two days, Hamas is trying to obstruct the work of IDF soldiers along the security fence," said Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. "We will not be deterred by Hamas threats and will continue our activity in light of violations of our sovereignty until we find and uncover the very last tunnel."
In a statement issued following a security assessment at the Gaza border, Ya'alon stressed that Israel is not interested in escalation and will continue to respond in a measured manner. "Since Hamas fired, we responded and will continue to respond to every provocation, but in a way that escalation will not occur and in order for Hamas not to continue its fire."