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Israel detains Palestinian over alleged involvement in tunnel operations in Gaza

Dec. 28, 2016 4:30 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 28, 2016 4:30 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities said on Wednesday that they detained a Palestinian last month accused of involvement in "sniper exercises" and digging tunnels between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel, according to Israeli media.

The reports emerged after an Israeli-issued gag order was lifted on the case.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, Bilal Razineh, a member of the Hamas movement's military wing, was detained by Israel's security agency the Shin Bet after he crossed into Israel from Gaza. 

Hebrew-language site NRG reported that Razineh told interrogators that his brother Mustafa served as chief of internal security in the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip.

In addition, he allegedly mentioned during interrogation that a tunnel was dug from his family's home in the northern Gaza Strip that connected to other tunnels used for storing ammunition and fighting equipment.

The report claimed that Razineh told Israeli interrogators that a number of Hamas' leaders, included his brother, were steering the battle from inside Gaza's Kamal Udwan hospital during the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the small Palestinian territory. He also mentioned that several commanders from Gaza's internal security were involved in the fighting and "used residents' houses" in military activities, according to NRG report.

Some 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the devastating 50-day war. Israel has repeatedly claimed that airstrikes targeted civilian facilities such as schools, hospitals, and homes because Palestinian militants were using civilians as "human shields" during the fighting.

However, according to Amnesty International, the Israeli military displayed "shocking disregard" for civilian lives in Gaza. While possible military targets were identified in some cases, "the devastation to civilian lives ... was clearly disproportionate," the group said in a 2014 report after the war.

In August this year, the Israeli military closed 13 criminal investigations into cases of Israeli soldiers committing violations against Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Israeli assault without imposing any punitive measures, while some 80 incidents were closed without opening a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, there have been reports in recent months that Hamas has expanded its tunnel network -- used mainly for military purposes in the northern Gaza Strip and smuggling in the south -- since the war a left much of it destroyed.

Israeli officials have since accused Hamas of "preparing" for another war, detaining a number of Gazans over alleged involvement with Hamas' tunnel building operations. 

However, despite Hamas' inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, the movement has not officially claimed responsibility for any military action from Gaza against Israel since the 2014 war.
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