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Tunnel at Chabad headquarters stretches 60 feet, NYC investigators discover

(New York Jewish Week) — Days after a wall at Chabad’s Brooklyn headquarters — and the entire internet — broke down over an effort to burrow into a synagogue there, New York City investigators have revealed exactly what kind of tunnel everyone is talking about.

An illicit underground passageway running underneath a building adjacent to Chabad’s main building, at 770 Eastern Parkway, stretched for 60 feet, the city’s Department of Buildings said on Wednesday. The tunnel was 8 feet wide, 5 feet tall and threatening the structural stability of two buildings, the department said.

Drama surrounding the tunnel drew international attention after bedlam broke out at the complex’s synagogue on Monday. A group of men had tried to tunnel into the synagogue in an effort to expand the headquarters, and when authorities attempted to repair holes they had breached, the men tore into the synagogue’s walls.

Nine people were arrested and three cited for disorderly conduct during the commotion, which also gave rise to antisemitic conspiracies online and brought rifts within Chabad to the fore. The headquarters at 770, a building that has taken on symbolic significance for the Hasidic movement’s global network of emissaries, has been closed since Monday afternoon.

But until now, the extent and nature of the tunnel was unknown. Investigators uncovered “a single linear underground tunnel” approximately the length of a bowling alley that had been illegally excavated, the buildings department told the New York Jewish Week on Wednesday.

Related: The controversial tunnel at Chabad’s Brooklyn headquarters, explained

The 60-foot tunnel was in the basement of a single-story building behind the Chabad headquarters’ main synagogue, where Monday’s fracas took place. The department has been investigating it since Tuesday morning.

Those who dug the tunnel had created several openings in the basement walls of the single-story building. It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the tunnel had been excavated from the ground, and how much was formed by making openings in existing rooms.

“The safety of our fellow New Yorkers is our highest priority,” the department said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the progress of this emergency stabilization work, and if necessary, we are ready to take additional actions that may be required in the interest of public safety.”

The tunnel had rudimentary supports in place and was constructed without approval or permits. City engineers said the excavation had undermined the building above it, as well as another building on Kingston Avenue, causing structural stability issues. The Department of Buildings issued partial vacate orders for both buildings due to safety concerns.

The department said other neighboring structures were unaffected and could be reoccupied, apparently meaning that the synagogue itself was secure.

The city instructed the owners of the properties to hire an engineer to stabilize the excavation and fill in the tunnel where necessary. The owners had already employed an architect, engineer and contractor on site who were preparing to do the emergency work, the department said.

Reports of the tunnel first surfaced last month. After Monday’s fracas, police were summoned to the site and arrested cited individuals for charges including criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and attempted hate crimes, a police spokesperson told the New York Jewish Week. There was no further information on the nature of the alleged hate crimes. Video from the scene showed young men shouting, arguing with police, being handcuffed and removed from the building.

Chabad spokespeople and students who were at the scene described those responsible for the tunnel as a fringe group within the movement whose activities were opposed by the majority of its adherents. Chabad leaders had condemned the incident and expressed anguish over the synagogue’s closure.

Reached for comment, a Chabad spokesperson said a statement would be issued soon.

Students who were at the scene told the New York Jewish Week that the tunnel had been part of an effort to expand the synagogue. Some members of Chabad believe that the movement’s late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said they had a duty to expand the building.

Schneerson’s office was located at 770, and and it was the home of his father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson. It is now a place of prayer, study and other Chabad activities.

Schneerson died in 1994, leading the movement without a living leader, and the headquarters complex has been the subject of a years-long legal battle over ownership between rival Chabad institutions. Disputes over where the site should be expanded, and how it should be done, have come to the fore in the wake of the incident.

Baseless antisemitic conspiracies also spread online, including false claims that a tunnel network under the synagogue was used for trafficking children, echoing centuries-old antisemitic blood libels. The tunnel was empty except for dirt, tools and debris, the Department of Buildings said.

The post Tunnel at Chabad headquarters stretches 60 feet, NYC investigators discover appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Washington Says It Will Not Back Expanded IDF Operations in Rafah

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

i24 NewsMedics reported that Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza’s Rafah claimed the lives of 17 individuals on Saturday.

The attacks come as tensions escalate, with over a million Palestinians densely packed into the border city, awaiting a potential full-scale offensive amid widespread destruction across the enclave and limited avenues of escape.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans for military action, aiming to evacuate Rafah’s population and dismantle four Hamas battalions allegedly stationed in the area.

As IDF prepares for an intense ground operation in Rafah, its efforts to create safe corridors for Palestinian civilians are made more difficult by the fighting ongoing throughout Gaza. @mcauliffe_marym joins @Nicole_Zedek with the latest updates:

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 10, 2024

Unlike previous conflicts where civilians were urged to seek refuge in southern Gaza, the current situation presents a dilemma as there are no relatively unscathed areas left, leaving residents with nowhere to flee. Aid agencies have warned of the potential for a significant loss of civilian lives should an assault on Rafah occur.

Reports from Gaza City indicate intensified fighting on Saturday, with residents reporting clashes amid the ongoing hostilities.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, disclosed plans to coordinate the relocation of Rafah residents northward in anticipation of potential military action. However, Egypt has stated its refusal to permit mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory,.

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Numerous Weapons Discovered in UNRWA Premises in Gaza

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsThe IDF revealed that it had discovered, in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza, twenty terrorist infrastructure sites including a tunnel entrance near an UNRWA school. The tunnel, an “important part of Hamas’ military intelligence services,” passed under the building which serves as the main headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.

Large quantities of weapons were found in rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives. Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that these offices had also been used by Hamas terrorists, the military claims.

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Qatar Says Hamas ‘Promises’ Hostages Received Medicines, But Offers no proof

One of the digital billboards of Hamas hostages that were taken down in London. Photo: Provided

i24 NewsIn a recent development, Qatar has informed both Israel and France that Hamas has purportedly agreed to ensure that hostages receive the essential medicines delivered to them in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Qatar facilitated the transfer of these crucial drugs to Gaza following a comprehensive list compiled with input from the hostages’ respective doctors. The medications in question are deemed “vital,” primarily aimed at addressing chronic illnesses among the hostages.

This development comes amidst ongoing efforts to address the welfare and medical needs of the hostages held in Gaza, with international stakeholders closely monitoring the situation for further updates.

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