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Israel finds tunnels from Hamas leaders’ homes

Gaza death toll hits 20,000

Israeli forces have uncovered a network of tunnels running deep beneath central Gaza City from properties registered to Yahya Sinwar and other senior Hamas organisers of the October 7 attacks on Israel, the military says.

The tunnels were found when soldiers secured a central area of the city in recent days, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters.

Accessed by spiral staircases and an elevator up to 20 metres below ground, the tunnels were kitted out with electricity, plumbing, surveillance cameras and heavy blast doors, according to images shared with reporters by the military on Wednesday.

“This complex, both above and below ground, was a centre of power for Hamas’ military and political wings,” Lerner said.

Reuters could not independently verify the information provided.

The tunnels were used by senior Hamas officials including Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Muhammad Deif to direct operations and for “protected daily movement” through the heart of Gaza City, the military said in a statement.

Israeli accuses the militant group of deliberately locating tunnels and other military infrastructure among civilians whom it uses as human shields.

Hamas, which rejects the accusation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sinwar and Deif are believed to be the masterminds behind the Hamas-led October 7 attacks that killed 1200 people and triggered an Israeli assault on Gaza that has killed about 20,000 people and forced most of the 2.3 million population to flee their homes.

Israel has the stated goal of destroying Hamas and rescuing more than 130 people still held hostage by the Palestinian Islamist militants.

Israel has yet to find the leaders despite taking control of some parts of Gaza.

Israel’s intense air and ground campaign has injured more than 50,000 people and laid waste to much of the coastal enclave.

Hamas has long boasted that its tunnel network is hundreds of kilometres long.

Some shafts are to 80 metres deep and were described by one freed hostage as “a spider’s web”.

The group’s tunnels beneath the sandy 360-square-kilometre coastal strip and its borders include attack, smuggling, storage and operational burrows, Western and Middle East sources familiar with the matter have said.

Earlier this week, Israel said it uncovered an unusually large concrete and iron-girded tunnel designed to carry carloads of militant fighters from Gaza right up to the border.

-AAP

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