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Soldiers Find Network of Underground Tunnels in Hevron Area

Dozens of tunnels were hidden behind furniture, washing machines; IDF looking for volunteers to help search for kidnapped teens.
By Yaakov Levi
First Publish: 6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

The IDF is seeking to expand the number of people searching for three teens kidnapped ten days ago by Hamas terrorists – and is turning to volunteers who are familiar with the Hevron area for help. The army hopes that the volunteers will help in the discovery of clues that could indicate where the teens are.

In the meantime, the army said, the intense searches in the Hevron area have yielded a great deal of information and new discoveries – such as the discovery of a network of tunnels in the Hevron area that the IDF did not know existed.

In an e-mail message sent out to organizations that sponsor hikes and outdoor activities in the Hevron area, officials wrote that “now is the time for action. We need volunteers to help find our missing boys.” The message stresses that those who answer the call are responsible for their own personal safety.

What security officials are looking for are former soldiers and experienced hikers who have spent a lot of time in the southern Hevron Hills area, who will be able to examine areas and indicate whether recent geographical changes have taken place – such as the digging of an underground bunker, where the kidnapped Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha'ar (16), might be held by Hamas kidnappers.

Soldiers have been working from sunup to sundown, and even later, security officials said, as they seek clues to the whereabouts of the teens. Soldiers have been investigating caves, wells, holes, and homes in the search for hints. An IDF spokesperson said that soldiers were combing the area where they suspect the teens are being held “meter by meter. We are literally turning over every stone.”

Among the things soldiers have already found, officials said, is a network of dozens of underground tunnels that were hidden behind furniture, washing machines, and the like. It is not clear what the purpose of the tunnels are, and IDF soldiers are exploring them to see if they lead into the area of the 1948 armistice lines, used for smuggling illegal Palestinians into Israel.

In addition, the army said, soldiers have discovered several bomb-making facilities in private homes, throughout Judea and Samaria, and especially in Hevron.