New Gaza 'terrorist' tunnel discovered, claims Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel said on Friday it had uncovered a new Gaza "terrorist" tunnel reaching into the Jewish state, but Hamas said the tunnel was old and had been exposed by storms.

The tunnel "reaches hundreds of metres into Israel" from the besieged Palestinian enclave, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters, adding that it was designed for carrying out a "terrorist attack".

Lieutenant Colonel Lerner did not give the exact location of the tunnel, saying it was "engineered with substantial concrete slabs... and varies in depth from six to eight metres".

"The exposure of this tunnel was based on intelligence, and boots on the ground," he added.

But the armed wing of Islamist movement Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, said shortly before the army's announcement that the tunnel was old and had been exposed by storms, not by Israeli "security achievements".

"The tunnel the occupation claimed to have uncovered... is old, and was exposed and damaged by stormy weather two months ago," the Mr Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement late Thursday, released after initial unconfirmed media reports on the tunnel.

The tunnel was located east of the southern city of Khan Yunis, the statement said.

The Qassam Brigades said Israel's announcement aimed to "incite against the Palestinian people... and to (justify) aggression against Gaza".

Israel froze shipment of building materials into Gaza in October after discovering a sophisticated "terror tunnel" into the Jewish state from the Palestinian territory, a defence official said.

Officials said that tunnel ran 450 metres into Israel and was intended as a springboard for militant attacks.

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