February 24, 2024

By Ohad Zwigenberg | Related Press

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The Israeli army stated Wednesday it has discovered proof that hostages have been current in an underground tunnel within the Gaza Strip metropolis of Khan Younis, which has turn into the main focus of Israel’s floor offensive.

The army confirmed the tunnel to journalists who have been escorted right into a neighborhood close to the ruins of destroyed properties and streets. A corrugated tin hut coated the tunnel’s entrance in a residential yard.

A makeshift ladder led to the slim underground pathway, about 2.5 meters (8 ft) under. The tunnel was scorching and humid, with partitions lined with concrete and electrical wires. Farther inside was a rest room, the place the army stated it discovered proof that hostages had been there, together with their DNA.

“Hostages have been held right here on this tunnel system,” stated Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman.

Hagari supplied no particulars on what precisely was discovered within the tunnel, nor did he say when the hostages have been there or determine them. He didn’t say in the event that they have been recognized to be useless or alive.

In a later assertion to the media, he stated the captives have been held in “tough situations,” with out elaborating.

A number of hostages freed in a cease-fire deal in late November described being held inside tunnels, which Hamas has laid all through the Gaza Strip and which Israel says have lengthy been used to smuggle weapons and fighters all through the blockaded territory.

The tunnel was present in part of town that seems to have endured heavy combating. The close by residence was badly broken.

In one other constructing, the partitions have been blasted out of a number of flats. Giant mounds of grime surrounded the realm, apparently from Israeli bulldozers looking for buried explosives. A tank was parked exterior an empty college, the place an Israeli flag was hung from the outside partitions. The sound of what seemed to be a drone buzzed overhead, and gunfire might be heard within the distance.

The army says Hamas is working from contained in the tunnels, and army officers have made the destruction of the tunnel system a prime aim.

Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the army’s 98th Division, described the tunnels as posing “a 720-degree menace.”

“It’s not 360, however it’s 720, underground and over floor,” Goldfus stated.

Israel additionally believes that Hamas chief Yehya Sinwar is hiding in a tunnel someplace in Khan Younis.

The beleaguered metropolis, Gaza’s second-largest, has turn into the main focus of Israel’s struggle on Hamas in latest weeks. On Wednesday’s tour for journalists, no residents seemed to be within the space. Israel has ordered residents to evacuate parts of town because it proceeds with the offensive.

In its fierce Oct. 7 assault, Hamas and different militants killed 1,200 folks and took hostage roughly 250, in line with Israeli authorities.