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February 15, 2016 2:24 pm

Israeli Defense Expert: Technological Response to Tunnels, Plan for Next Confrontation With Hamas Crucial

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

An IDF soldier at the entrance to a Hamas tunnel. Photo: Wikipedia.

An IDF soldier at the entrance to a Hamas tunnel. Photo: Wikipedia.

Israel should prepare a “technological response” for Hamas’ tunnel-building, to give Jerusalem “the breathing room it needs to develop a plan of action against Hamas” while maintaining the calm that has prevailed since the 2014 Gaza war, wrote the director of the Institute for National Security Studies in an analysis on Monday.

“Obviously, if a technology to identify and/or block tunnels is developed and deployed, it will be easier to adopt restraint and build preparedness for the next confrontation,” wrote Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli Air Force general and military attache to the US.

Just as the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system “proved its strategic value” in virtually eliminating “the threat of high-trajectory fire in most locations in Israel” with the onset of Operation Protecive Edge against Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014, a similar underground version of the Iron Dome to detect and destroy Hamas’ underground tunnels would “dramatically alter Israel’s opening position in the next conflict,” which Yadlin said was inevitable.

In the absence of such technology, Yadlin said, a preemptive strike against Hamas tunnel capabilities was “essential,” likely escalating to a “full-blown conflict” in which he recommended Israel act forcefully “to effect a fundamental change in the balance of power and the dynamics between the sides.”

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According to the Financial Times, Israel’s Defense Ministry has confirmed that the US budgeted $120 million to aid Israel in developing the appropriate detection technology to confront the issue of tunnels, which defense officials said is a threat posed both by Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israelis in southern communities have reported hearing the clanking sounds of tunnel excavation over the last couple of months.

To confront the tunnel threat, IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot said last week that Israel had “advanced capabilities,” including some “100 engineering tools,” most of which were “away from the public eye.” According to the New York Times, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories said 11 Palestinians had died in recent weeks as a result of the collapse of at least five tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

The tunnels became a focal point of Operation Protective Edge, with the IDF claiming to have destroyed some 32 of them. The Egyptian military also has been destroying tunnels crossing the border between the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, with such efforts reportedly increasing over the last several months.

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