According to intelligence officials, Israeli engineers are working tirelessly to develop what’s being called the #Underground_Iron_Dome — a system that could detect and destroy cross-border tunnels. According to a report on Israeli Channel 2, the Israeli government has spent more than $250 million since 2004 in its efforts to thwart tunnel construction under the Gaza border.
The United States has already appropriated $40 million for the project in the 2016 financial year, in order “to establish anti-tunnel capabilities to detect, map, and neutralize underground tunnels that threaten the U.S. or Israel,” said U.S. Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood. While the majority of the work in 2016 will be done in Israel, Sherwood added, “the U.S. will receive prototypes, access to test sites, and the rights to any intellectual property.”
Among the Israeli companies working to develop the new anti-tunnel mechanism are Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the same company that developed the Iron Dome rocket defense system. Both companies declined to provide any details due to security reasons, as did the IDF and other Israeli officials, who fear that such information could play into Hamas’s hands. Yet according to intelligence sources who spoke with Foreign Policy on the condition of anonymity, the system involves seismic sensors that can monitor underground vibrations.
IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eizenkot hinted at these efforts in February. “We are doing a lot, but many of [the things we do] are hidden from the public,” he told a conference at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center. “We have dozens, if not a hundred, engineering vehicles on the Gaza border.”
Yaakov Amidror, a former national security advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, told FP the confidential new system is not yet operational, but it is “in a testing mode.”
Since the beginning of 2016, nearly a dozen Hamas tunnels have collapsed on the Palestinians who were building them, killing at least 10 of the group’s members. While winter rains have been blamed as the culprit, the wave of collapses has led many here to wonder if Israel’s new secret weapon is already at work.
Asked by the Palestinian Maan News Agency in February whether or not Israel was behind recent tunnel collapses, the coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, responded, “God knows.”