construction in Gaza
construction in Gaza Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel has temporarily stopped allowing shipments of construction supplies to reach Gaza through Israeli territory, following the discovery late last week of a 2.5-kilometer (1.55-mile) tunnel built by Gaza terrorists into Israeli territory.

"Due to security reasons, (the army) decided to stop for now the transfer of building materials into Gaza," Defense Ministry spokesman Guy Inbar told AFP. He did not say how long the ban would remain in force.

Last month Israel permitted delivery of cement and steel for use by the private sector into the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007, when Israel banned their transfer fearing that Gaza's Hamas rulers would use construction materials to fortify its positions and build tunnels for terrorist attacks on the Jewish state.

Israeli officials said on Sunday that a sophisticated tunnel running 450 meters into Israel and intended as a springboard for terrorist attacks had been uncovered by troops.

"This tunnel, which looks like the New York subway, is apparently intended to kidnap soldiers or for some other kind of terrorist attack," Haim Yelin told army radio.

"It is impressively executed, with concrete supports," he added.

Yelin denied media reports that the tunnel was aimed at attacking an Israeli village or kibbutz or that it was to be used to set off explosives under a kindergarten, as was reported by some media outlets.

"This tunnel penetrates into the state of Israel 300-400 meters (yards) from the border with the Gaza Strip," he said. "It is situated 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from any of the kibbutzim and moshavim (collective villages) in the area."