Israel to Install Revolutionary Tunnel Detection System on Gaza Border

A Palestinian fighter from the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, August 18, 2014. Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Israel's defence establishment has successfully tested a tunnel detection system which aims to prevent cross-border attacks by Palestinian militants, a former Israeli commander dealing with the dismantling of the tunnels has revealed.

Israeli defence electronics company Elbit Systems is cooperating with the Israeli ministry of defence to develop the world's first detection system for tunnels built across the Gaza border, some which are used by Gaza factions, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to attack IDF soldiers and conduct kidnapping attempts against Israeli security personnel.

The system, which the company promises will give "no false alarms", allegedly uses sensors to accurately detect tunnelling activity, before the information is deciphered by a series of algorithms, revealing the location of the tunnels. The total cost and the timeframe of the project could not be confirmed.

Col. (res) Atai Shelach, the former IDF commander of the elite Yahalom unit whose focus is on destroying the tunnels, told Newsweek that the "classified" system will provide the "golden answer" to preventing tunnel attacks from Gaza militants.

"It will be solved by an evolution of technologies, intelligence and operational acts. This is the triangle," he says in reference to preventing the tunnel raids. "We won't find the golden answer in technology, we won't find the golden answer in operational acts and we won't find the golden answer in intelligence. It's a combination and the missing link is technology."

"As long as we can keep it quiet it's better because it's an operational act and to terrorists it is like water, they are looking for the hole that they can lick," the former commander, now an IDF reservist, adds. "Sometimes me and others make mistakes and talk too much."

The technology has already been trialled in some parts of the Israel-Gaza border and will eventually extend along the entire frontier, the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Aharonot reported. Speaking to the newspaper, Alon Shuster, chief of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council which borders eastern Gaza, said that the new technology would provide "an additional layer of security for the residents" of border areas.

The Israeli military said it launched its Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last July to destroy a vast tunnel network created by Palestinian militants for weapons smuggling purposes and cross-border attacks.

Earlier this month, Israeli analysts claimed that Hamas was preparing for the next conflict with Israel following the uncovering of an Israeli-Palestinian smuggling ring which attempted to transport high-tech equipment, such as infrared cameras and remote control security cameras - into the blockaded enclave.

In last summer's 50-day conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians—at least 1,585 civilians of which 530 were children—were killed, according to UN and Palestinian accounts, and 72 Israelis—all but five soldiers—were killed, according to Israeli accounts. Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian gunmen entering into Israel via the cross-border tunnels.

An Elbit Systems representative was not immediately available for comment.