A tunnel wide enough for a Hamas leader to drive his car underneath Gaza has reportedly been discovered by Israeli forces.
The passage was found as troops unearthed more of the terror group’s subterranean network in recent weeks, the New York Times reported.
Until last month, the tunnels were assessed to stretch for some 250 miles beneath the enclave.
But senior Israeli defence officials, cited by the newspaper, said estimates had been revised upwards in light of recent discoveries, with the network now thought to be between 350 and 450 miles in length.
The Gaza Strip itself is only estimated to be around 25 miles long and six miles wide.
One tunnel “stretched nearly three football fields long and was hidden beneath a hospital,” the New York Times reported.
Another, the newspaper said, “was wide enough for a top Hamas official to drive a car inside”.
Destroying the underground network has been one of Israel’s key aims of the war, but an official told the newspaper it could take years to destroy the system.
Senior military officers told The Economist that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would not be able to destroy the entirety of the network.
Doing so would require each tunnel to be mapped, checked for hostages and made irreparable.
Recent attempts to destroy the network by flooding it with seawater have failed and the IDF previously conceded that it has yet to destroy half of the underground passages in Gaza.
Military leaders have been surprised by the quality and depth of the tunnels, according to the New York Times.
Two officials cited by the newspaper assessed that there were nearly 5,700 separate shafts leading down into the network.
Daphné Richemond-Barak, a tunnel warfare expert at Reichman University in Israel, said Israel’s stated goal of eradicating Hamas was dependent on destroying the tunnels.
“If you want to destroy the leadership and arsenal of Hamas, you have to destroy the tunnels,” he told the New York Times. “It’s become connected to every part of the military missions.”
Several Israelis who were held hostage by Hamas in the wake of the group’s October 7 attack have spoken about the spider web-like structures stretching beneath Gaza after being freed.
“We went underground and walked for kilometres in wet tunnels, for two or three hours, in a spider’s web of tunnels,” Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, told reporters in late October.
04:07 PM GMT
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04:06 PM GMT
Cameron calls for ‘immediate pause’ in Gaza
In Gaza, we need an immediate pause to get the hostages out and aid in.
Then we need to see if we can convert that pause into a sustainable ceasefire, ideally without further hostilities.
Thank you @SecBlinken.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 17, 2024
03:28 PM GMT
Aid for Israeli hostages and Palestinian civilians arrives at Gaza border
Aid destined for Israeli hostages and Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip was delivered to Egypt on Wednesday for transfer across the border, following a deal brokered by Qatar and France.
Two Qatari planes arrived in El Arish in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where supplies were unloaded and transferred to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza about 17 miles away to the east, Egyptian security and Red Crescent officials said.
One of the planes was carrying medical packages for 45 of the 253 hostages Israel says were captured by Hamas during its deadly incursion into Israel on Oct. 7.
02:57 PM GMT
Cameron: Making progress towards long-term stability in the Middle East ‘top of agenda’
The UK and the US stand in defence of freedom and democracy.
Defending Ukraine and making progress towards long-term stability in the Middle East are both at the top of our agenda. pic.twitter.com/af6Rp8WsR2
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 17, 2024
02:29 PM GMT
More people in Gaza are likely to die of hunger and famine than war, says Palestine investment fund chairman
Mohammad Mustafa, the Palestine investment fund chairman, said more people in Gaza are likely to die of hunger and famine than war.
The first steps should be to bring food, medicine, water and electricity back to the besieged enclave, he said.
He estimated that rebuilding housing units in Gaza would need at least $15 billion.
Mr Mustafa said, while speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, that reconstruction efforts will be huge and the financial needs significant.
02:12 PM GMT
Iranian missiles kill two children in Pakistan
Pakistan has condemned Iran for violating its airspace after a missile attack on Tuesday killed at least two children and wounded three others.
The missiles targeted two bases belonging to Jaish al-Adl, a militant group that has before claimed responsibility for attacks on Iranian security forces along the border with Pakistan, Iranian state media said.
It comes a day after Iran struck northern Iraq in what it claimed was an attack on an Israel spy base. The Islamic republic is already facing pressure for escalating conflict in the Middle East through proxies like the Houthis.
Read more from The Telegraph’s Sophia Yan here
02:02 PM GMT
US set to reassign Houthis as terror group
The United States plans to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organisation almost three years after Joe Biden took the Iran-backed militia off the list of proscribed groups.
Mr Biden called the Houthis a “terrorist” group after US and British warplanes, ships and submarines launched dozens of strikes across Yemen on Friday in response to Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping.
From the middle of February, the US will consider the Houthis a “specially designated global terrorist” force, US officials said.
Read more here
01:47 PM GMT
Pictured: Security personnel guard the trucks carrying aid as they arrive in Rafah
01:37 PM GMT
Israel ‘kills Hamas counter-espionage official’ in strike
Israel claims it has killed a Hamas counter-espionage officer in overnight strikes that also claimed the lives of six fighters in the Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say it killed Bilal Nofal, a Hamas officer in charge of interrogating suspected spies, in strikes in the southern district of the Strip.
His assassination “significantly impacts the terrorist organisation’s capacity to develop and enhance its capabilities,” it said.
Israel said at the start of the year that it had largely dismantled Hamas in northern Gaza and would scale back operations there, focusing on dense urban areas in the centre and south of the territory.
01:34 PM GMT
UN agency chief warns of bleak post-war future for Gazans
The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, warned Wednesday of the bleak future facing Gazans after the war between Hamas and Israel ends.
Following his fourth visit to the Palestinian territory since the war erupted on October 7, the UNRWA chief said many residents are no longer able to see “the future in the Gaza Strip”.
“You have hundreds of thousands of people living now in the street, living in these plastic makeshift (tents), sleeping on the concrete,” Mr Lazzarini told journalists in Jerusalem.
01:20 PM GMT
Iran says it shared intelligence on Mossad with Iraq
Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister, said on Wednesday that Tehran shared intelligence with Iraq about what it said were activities of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in the Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
Iran has said its Revolutionary Guards attacked Israel’s “spy HQ” in Iraq in the city of Erbil on Monday.
Iraq later denied that there was any such spy centre in the country.
01:15 PM GMT
Israeli missile ‘kills top militant in West Bank’
12:19 PM GMT
Honour guards and military cadets carry coffins of Houthi fighters killed in recent strikes in Sana’a, Yemen
11:41 AM GMT
We cannot have in Lebanon another Gaza, says UN Secretary General
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, has said he is “extremely worried about Lebanon”.
He told CNN: “We cannot have in Lebanon another Gaza.”
He added that it is “absolutely crucial to avoid a messy confrontation in Lebanon that will be the devastation of the country”.
Mr Guterres, who made the comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said resolving the situation in Gaza would “allow for…de-escalation in other parts of the Middle East”.
11:13 AM GMT
Jordan says its Gaza hospital ‘badly damaged’ by Israeli shelling
The Jordanian army said its military field hospital in the city of Khan Younis in Gaza was badly damaged as a result of Israeli shelling in the vicinity.
In a statement, the army said it held Israel responsible for a “flagrant breach of international law”.
The Israeli military says it is looking into the allegations.
10:43 AM GMT
Israel ‘steps up strikes in south’
Israel stepped up strikes in the southern Gaza Strip, with air strikes and artillery fire targeting Khan Younis throughout the night, said an AFP correspondent.
“It was the most difficult and intense night in Khan Younis since the start of the war,” said Gaza’s Hamas-run government, whose health ministry reported 81 deaths across the Palestinian territory.
At least 24,448 Palestinians, about 70 per cent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in Israeli bombardments and ground assaults, according to the Gaza health ministry’s latest figures.
10:24 AM GMT
UN: ‘The world is standing by as civilians are killed’
Parties to the conflict in Gaza are “trampling” on international law, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said as he urged them to implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Guterres said the warring parties were “ignoring international law, trampling on the Geneva Conventions, and even violating the United Nations Charter”.
“The world is standing by as civilians, mostly women and children, are killed, maimed, bombarded, forced from their homes and denied access to humanitarian aid,” he said.
“I repeat my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and a process that leads to sustained peace for Israelis and Palestinians, based on a two-state solution.”
10:15 AM GMT
Pictured: Israeli battle tanks roll at a position along the border with the Gaza Strip
10:04 AM GMT
Iraqi Kurdish PM cancels meeting with Iran minister in protest over attack
Masrour Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish prime minister, cancelled a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland in protest over Iranian missile strikes on the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, a source told Reuters.
Iran late on Monday struck Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, with ballistic missiles in what it said was an attack on an Israeli spy headquarters, claims vehemently denied by Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish officials.
The attack killed at least four people, including a prominent Kurdish businessman and his infant child.
The Iranian strikes have led to a rare diplomatic row with Iraq’s government, with Baghdad filing a complaint against Iranian “aggression” at the United Nations Security Council and recalling its ambassador to Tehran.
09:47 AM GMT
Blinken: Israel ‘must help a reformed Palestinian government instead of opposing it’
BREAKING: Secretary of State Blinken says at @wef that Israel needs to help a reformed Palestinian government instead of actively opposing it
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 17, 2024
09:45 AM GMT
Blinken: Gaza suffering ‘breaks my heart’
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, is speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
When asked if Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian and Christian lives, he said: “No. Period.”
Mr Blinken said that what is happening in Gaza is “gutwrenching” and breaks his heart.
“The question is what is to be done”.
09:36 AM GMT
Palestine Red Crescent Society in Khan Younis
⭕The Palestine Red Crescent Society provides medical services to displaced individuals in the city of #KhanYounis, southern Gaza Strip, through two mobile clinics, continuing its efforts and commitment to providing essential healthcare and necessary medical support.#Gaza pic.twitter.com/D8P3Q3CvBH
— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) January 16, 2024
09:20 AM GMT
Pictured: The Israeli army claims they discovered these rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip
09:06 AM GMT
‘There is panic’ – Israeli troops advance on Al Nasser hospital
Israeli troops are advancing on Khan Younis’ largest hospital, doctors have said.
Patients and Gazans who were taking shelter at Al Nasser hospital have been forced to flee.
“The hospital is shaking and there is panic,” an American doctor told CNN in a voice note.
Gunfire could reportedly be heard in the background of the message.
The Telegraph was not able to independently verify the report.
Israel has previously claimed that Hamas uses hospitals as military bases.
08:48 AM GMT
Qatari planes with aid for hostages arrive in Egypt
Two Qatari planes carrying medicine for hostages have arrived in Egypt, according to Arabic media.
The military aircrafts will now be taken across the Rafah border crossing.
On Tuesday, Qatar and France helped broker a deal to deliver urgent medication to some 45 Israeli hostages held by the group in Gaza in return for humanitarian and medical aid for the most vulnerable civilians. [see post at 08:31].
08:33 AM GMT
Pictured: A Palestinian man and children inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a car in Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
08:31 AM GMT
Qatar and France help broker aid deal for hostages
Qatar and France have brokered a deal with Israel and Hamas to deliver urgent medication to some 45 Israeli hostages held by the group in Gaza in return for humanitarian and medical aid for the most vulnerable civilians.
The two countries said the aid would leave Qatar for Egypt on Wednesday before being taken across the Rafah border crossing.
Majed al-Ansari, a Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, said the deal would mean “medicine along with other humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in the Gaza Strip, in the most affected and vulnerable areas, in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza”.
The Biden administration welcomed the announcement.
08:28 AM GMT
Israeli military says it killed top militant in West Bank strike
The Israeli army said it killed a top Palestinian militant in an air strike in the occupied West Bank early Wednesday, averting a “terrorist attack” he was planning.
Ahmed Abdullah Abu Shalal had been responsible for a “number of terrorist attacks” over the past year, including one in annexed east Jerusalem, the army said.
He was “eliminated in a precision air strike,” it said in a statement that had a video link showing the strike on a vehicle.
The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said the body of an “unidentified martyr killed by the occupation (Israel) in a bombing of a vehicle” had been received by a hospital in Nablus.
The army said Abu Shalal was killed following intelligence “of his cell’s intentions of carrying out an imminent terrorist attack”.
The army did not offer details, but said he was responsible for carrying out a shooting in the Shimon HaTzadik neighbourhood of east Jerusalem in April last year in which two residents were wounded.
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