KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military said Wednesday it has found evidence that hostages were present in an underground tunnel in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, which has become the focus of Israel's ground offensive.
The military showed the tunnel to journalists who were escorted into a neighborhood near the ruins of destroyed homes and streets. A corrugated tin hut covered the tunnel's entrance in a residential yard.
A makeshift ladder led to the narrow underground pathway, about 2.5 meters (8 feet) below. The tunnel was hot and humid, with walls lined with concrete and electrical wires. Farther inside was a bathroom, where the military said it found evidence that hostages had been there, including their DNA.
“Hostages were held here in this tunnel system,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the army's chief spokesman.
Hagari offered no details on what exactly was found in the tunnel, nor did he say when the hostages were there or identify them. He did not say if they were known to be dead or alive.
In a later statement to the media, he said the captives were held in “difficult conditions,” without elaborating.
Several hostages freed in a cease-fire deal in late November described being held inside tunnels, which Hamas has laid throughout the Gaza Strip and which Israel says have long been used to smuggle weapons and fighters throughout the blockaded territory.
The tunnel was found in a…