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YAD MORDECHAI, Israel — Mother-of-three Shuli Schneider hardly flinches as rocket blasts shake her once-peaceful home in Yad Mordechai kibbutz in southern Israel. “To come back to this, it is something,” she tells NBC News. What really terrifies her are Hamas' newest weapon — secret tunnels that penetrate the country and threaten Israelis who live along the Gaza border. Some come up within a few hundred yards of their homes. “You can live with rockets, but not with tunnels. Israel must destroy them all,” she said.

One of Israel’s stated aims in launching its now three-week offensive has been to destroy the tunnel network, which is essential to the survival of Hamas and which Jerusalem says threatens the lives of its Israelis. The military says it already has uncovered at least 32 of these often highly sophisticated passageways. Israel on Thursday ruled out a cease-fire for Gaza until it has finished destroying tunnels running between the enclave and Israel.


Martin Fletcher and F. Brinley Bruton