IDF Details Approach to Destroying ‘Terror Tunnels’ Connecting Hamas in Gaza to Israel, Sinai
by Joshua Levitt
After a “terror tunnel” was discovered last week and revealed by the Israel Defense Forces yesterday at 18 meters underground and extending for 1.7 kilometers, an IDF Officer has further described the approach taken by the security forces to root out Hamas operatives from their underground fortresses, according to an interview on Israel’s Channel 2.
Hamas is vowing to dig more tunnels like this one which was discovered near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, which is adjacent to Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The IDF believes there could be dozens like this, which is why a new division was created to focus on identifying and destroying the tunnels.
According to the Southern Command’s Officer Sami Turgeman, interviewed by Channel 2, “This is the third ‘terror tunnel’ found lately around the Gaza Strip.”
“It is a gross violation of [Israel’s] sovereignty, and if Hamas pursues a terror attack it will pay a heavy price for it. The Gaza Strip will not be the same if such a terror attack is realized,” he said.
“Hamas and other organizations construct many tunnels of many kilometers in and around the Gaza Strip,” the officer said.
The IDF recently re-organized to better focus on the tunnels. A new group was created as a special squad of the Yahalom unit of the Engineering Corps, to be tasked with identifying and destroying the underground routes.
The biggest problem for the IDF, according to engineering officers, has been not having enough resources to locate the tunnels. “That’s why we rely in part on intelligence and observation,” Officer Turgeman said. “Constructing tunnels, especially at the latter stages, requires a lot of work. They generate large amounts of dirt, have lots of people going up and down, working with electric cables, digging tools and concrete. These things are very difficult to hide even when the starting point is from under a home. ”
Around the Gaza Strip, the IDF operates extensive and elaborate observation systems, including drones and reconnaissance aircraft from the Air Force.
In addition, the IDF is able to follow underground mapping operations using special radars, and has tools designed to locate tunnels. The IDF also operates heavy equipment for dealing with tunnels in mid-construction.
“After revealing a tunnel, we close the opening using heavy tools, such as the [Caterpillar] D-9,” the officer said. “The work is very dangerous because you never know if there is someone in the opening of the tunnel, if he is armed or if there are explosives and booby traps. ”
The IDF Officer shared an example of a source in Gaza who was paid NIS 1,000 a month to inform on a tunnel set-up. The IDF learned that a 500 meter-long tunnel was built over eight months running from Gaza into Egypt’s Rafah, using a storage bin and shed as the only above-ground marker for the tunnel’s entrance.
The tunnel discovered this week was much larger and would have allowed Hamas forces entry into Israel to engage in combat with the IDF.
On Sunday, Brig. Gen. Mickey Edelstein, Commander of the Gaza Division said in a statement: “The IDF holds the Hamas terror organization as the sole responsible body for all terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip, and continues to operate on the intelligence and operational levels in order to apprehend terror attacks.”
The tunnel is a “gross violation of the ceasefire, [and is] against Israel and against the Palestinians,” The Times of Israel quoted Edelstein as saying in reference to the ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas following an outbreak of hostilities in November 2012.
On Sunday, Israel suspended the delivery of building materials into Gaza after discovering a “terror tunnel” connecting the coastal strip to Israel early last week.