Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 16, 2008
Several hundred kilograms of explosives and weaponry were found in a tunnel that the IDF blew up in Hebron on Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday.
The 150-meter-long tunnel was discovered by Palestinian Authority security forces on Monday and was immediately reported to the IDF, which sent an Engineering Corps force to destroy the structure.
IDF sources and defense officials said Tuesday that the tunnel had been found empty and that it was unclear what its purpose was.
The Post learned on Thursday, however, that several hundred kilograms of explosives and arms were found in a branch of the tunnel and that the PA security forces confiscated it before informing the IDF of the discovery.
Despite several inquiries, it was unclear Thursday night why the IDF did not reveal this information.
While the army believes that dozens of tunnels have been dug under the border between Gaza and Egypt, the Hebron tunnel destroyed Tuesday - large enough for an average-sized person to stand fully erect inside - was the first of such size discovered in the West Bank.
On Tuesday, the IDF said the tunnel had not yet been completed. According to one source, it was far from both the city's Jewish enclave and the West Bank security barrier and therefore raised speculation regarding its purpose.
The tunnel was being dug in the general direction of Route 35 near Tarkumiya.
One possibility, a defense official said, was that Hamas had been digging the tunnel so its terrorists could move freely through the city without being detected by the IDF or Fatah.
Last year, the IDF uncovered tunnels in the Nablus marketplace, but none was so long or sophisticated.
Hebron Jewish community spokeswoman Orit Struck said Thursday she had heard about the weapons cache from the IDF earlier in the day.
They said "it was very worrisome," said Struck, adding that she was concerned but not surprised.
"We feel very threatened, and the danger from the Palestinians has not decreased. There are no peaceful intentions on the part of the Palestinians here," said Struck.
It is precisely because of discoveries such as this one that area settlers object so strenuously to the IDF plan to allow the deployment of a new battalion of some 700 Palestinian policemen in Hebron, Struck said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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