Israel deploying revolutionary anti-tunnel system on Gaza border

Israel deploying revolutionary anti-tunnel system on Gaza border

Detection mechanism for Hamas attack tunnels successfully tested, now to be expanded; residents cautiously welcome protection

A tunnel found in the northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (IDF spokesperson/Flash90)
A tunnel found in the northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (IDF spokesperson/Flash90)

The IDF is set to deploy a revolutionary new tunnel detection system along the Gaza Strip border, in an effort to better protect Israeli citizens from terrorist infiltration.

The new system was already successfully trialed in recent months along parts of the border, and is now expected to be expanded further, the daily newspaper Yedioth Aharonot reported Thursday.

An exact time-frame for its deployment was not made immediately clear.

A first of its kind in the world, the system includes a series of sensors that will provide data, deciphered by advanced algorithms, allowing security forces to accurately detect and locate tunnel-digging operations, the report said.

Attack tunnels extending into Israeli territory prompted an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, which began in July and lasted for 50 days.

Destroying the tunnel threat was one of Israel’s goals during the summer’s military campaign, which saw over 2,100 people killed in Gaza and tens of thousands more left homeless, according to Palestinian and UN tallies, and 72 people killed in Israel. Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed inside Israel by Hamas gunmen emerging from the cross-border tunnels.

Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/ Flickr)
Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/ Flickr)

Full deployment of the system, developed by the Director of Research and Development in the Defense Ministry in cooperation with Israeli industries, is pending government approval and the allocation of designated funds.

The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday that Hamas has begun using heavy machinery and engineering tools to accelerate the excavation of attack tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip under the Israeli border. The equipment, sources in the Palestinian enclave said, includes small bulldozers with the ability to maneuver in tight spaces. From the Israeli side of the border, larger tractors are clearly visible above the ground as the machines prepare the tunnel entries.

The Gaza-based terrorist organization has been using whatever cement it can get its hands on for the construction of the tunnels, and fortifying the walls of its underground structures with wood as well.

Security officials told The Times of Israel last month that Hamas has invested considerable effort in digging a new tunnel network within the coastal enclave, as well as several tunnels meant for eventual cross-border attacks.

The evidence of digging can be seen from the Israeli side of the border, and residents of frontier towns have documented the construction some several hundred meters from the border.

Alon Shuster, head of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, told Yedioth Aharonot that he closely followed the government and military efforts to develop the means to combat the Hamas tunnel threat. “This advancement provides an additional layer of security for the residents,” he said.

Amit Caspi of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom – one of three communities that lie within a kilometer from Gaza – said the tunnels mostly threaten the residents’ morale. “We view it as an unsolvable threat, so if indeed there was a breakthrough, although we know there can be no total solution, it can greatly improve our personal security,” he said.

“I hope it helps save lives and improves our quality of life.”.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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