smuggling tunnel renovation 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
For years, the IDF has looked in vain for an effective system to detect arms-smuggling tunnels. Now, it is pinning its hopes on a single officer, who will leave for the US next month.
The officer, named only as Capt. Asher, will conduct research with a single goal - to develop a system that can detect and locate the tunnels that terrorist groups are digging, with ever greater sophistication and to ever greater depths, under Gaza's borders.
Capt. Asher, who is considered one of the brightest members of the Ground Forces Command's Technology and Logistics Department, is heading to the US, where he will conduct research in a leading laboratory that specializes in discovering underground oil reserves.
The decision to send the officer to America was made by OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi and Brig.-Gen. Shahar Kadishai, head of the Technology and Logistics Department, in conjunction with the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate (MAFAT).
According to a senior Ground Forces Command officer, the IDF has tried a number of systems over the years to detect the Gaza tunnels.
Most of the army's efforts focus on the Gaza border with Israel, where tunnels are dug to sneak terrorists into Israel, as opposed to the southern Gaza border with Sinai, also known as the Philadelphi Corridor, where hundreds of tunnels are used to smuggle weapons and commercial goods into the Strip.
The IDF recently deployed specially designed seismic sensors, developed by a Rafael Advanced Defense Systems subsidiary.
During Operation Cast Lead earlier this year, the IDF uncovered a large tunnel that was being dug near the Karni crossing, which Hamas likely planned to use to smuggle terrorists into Israel.
In June 2006, St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit was captured after terrorists tunneled under the border fence and into Israel.
"We have yet to find the perfect system, even though we have been searching for one for years," the officer said. "Our hope is that Capt. Asher will go to the US, research the issue and return with a model for a solution."
Learning from the US Army, the IDF also sets off controlled, random explosions deep underground and along the border to try to thwart the tunnelers.
"If there is a tunnel nearby, then the explosion can destroy it," a defense official explained, noting that this method was used by the US Army along the Mexican border.
The challenge of detecting tunnels is particularly complex in urban areas - like the Gaza Strip - where acoustic and seismic sensors sometimes pick up false readings due to water pipes and sewer systems.