Uncovering Gazan tunnel routes is critical, says prominent geologist and defense expert

Many tunnels have already reached Israeli land, and systems that could have been deployed to detect the digging of tunnels into Israel are no longer helpful.

A Palestinian tunnel in Gaza.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian tunnel in Gaza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel must identify and destroy the complex tunnel infrastructure of Gaza to prevent future kidnappings and terrorist activity “before disaster occurs,” a geologist and defense expert told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
The advice comes from a man with an impressive track record. Langotsky, now 80 years old, is a renowned Israeli geologist and defense expert, During his IDF service, Langotsky received two Israel Defense Prizes, one personal and one together with his unit, as commander of the special technological operations unit in the army’s intelligence branch.
He is responsible for the discovery of the Dalit and Tamar natural-gas reservoirs. The Tamar field, which ended up containing an estimated 282 billion cubic meters of the resource, is already hooked up to Israeli gas lines.
Just as his evidence for the Mediterranean gas reservoirs was not initially taken seriously, Langotsky said he regrets that the defense system did not listen to his warnings about the tunnel system that has been expanding continually across the Gazan border.
“I’ve been warning them [the defense establishment] that the kidnapping, God forbid, of a few soldiers or a few civilians and their transfer as hostages to enemy territory – either along the border with Gaza or Lebanon – is a highly possible mode of action,” said Dr.
Joseph Langotsky. He has been trying to convince defense officials of the importance of pinpointing and destroying the tunnels that exist in Gaza and along the Lebanese border for nearly a decade.
“For 10 years I’ve been crying and screaming to the highest possible levels – to the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff, the commanding officers of southern and northern command – that although the tunnels are a low-tech option, they might be a strategic threat to our security,” Langotsky told the Post.
Langotsky said he continually “bombarded” defense officials with warnings, but little effort was made to correct this strategic liability for many years. He also criticized the officials for failing to involve the Geophysical Institute of Israel in researching the tunnels problem.
The defense system began heeding his advice about two or three years ago, Langotsky explained.
“This is a change and a very good one, but unfortunately seven years were lost,” he said.
Many tunnels have already reached Israeli land, and systems that could have been deployed to detect the digging of tunnels into Israel are no longer helpful.
“It’s like closing the gates of the stable after the horses were stolen,” he said.
From here on, he said, he can only recommend “that the [defense] system wake up, be more open minded and listen to and follow my advice/ [They must] try to close the gap of seven years.”
Langotsky said the tunnels are being dug in a very professional manner, and the hundreds of tunnels that run under the Gaza Strip don’t seem to pose any threat of land collapse.
“The Hamas are very professional in the tunneling business...”
he warned. “Whatever they are doing is very impressive.”
“I tried to emphasize that we are talking about a longterm threat, not a short-term threat,” he said. Not only is the threat long-term; it is longrange in terms of geography, with possible tunnel threats along the Egyptian and Lebanese borders.
Before becoming capable of destroying these tunnels, the Israeli security system first needs to discover their locations and routes, he said.
Langotsky compared the difficulties he faced in pushing the tunnels discovery plans forward with the “mission impossible” nature of approving the Iron Dome defense system, and, as his other professional experience indicates, with finding and developing gas in the Mediterranean.
(About a month before drilling on Tamar was to begin, Langotsky’s main investor Beny Steinmetz pulled out. In 2013, Tel Aviv District Court Justice Boaz Okon ruled that Steinmetz’s company, Scorpio Real Estate, must pay Langotsky NIS 50 million in damages. This March, the High Court of Justice rejected Steinmetz’s appeal and maintained Okon’s initial decision requiring Steinmetz to pay the fee immediately.
Locating and destroying the tunnels remains crucial but, Langotsky maintained, “I hope that we are smart enough to know not to enter the tunnels – we can burn them, we can explode them,” he said.
“The main issue is to discover the end and beginning of the tunnel. The minute you know where it begins and ends the project is finished – [as good as] fait accompli.”
Langotsky earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and received an honorary doctorate from the institution this June.