Tunnel Warfare with Hamas: Past, Present, Future

The Fellowship  |  December 27, 2017

A soldier coming out of a tunnel with two other soldiers helping him.
Tunnel Warfare with Hamas: Past

Perhaps even more disturbing than the terrorist rockets that rained down on Israel during her last conflict with Hamas was the discovery of the terror group’s network of tunnels, meant to enable attacks on Israel and her people. The Jerusalem Post’s Yonah Jeremy Bob talks to a military expert on tunnel combat and how it can be combated:

From the ancient Jewish King Hezekiah and the ancient Greeks to the US Civil War and World War I, from Vietnam to Hamas in Gaza and ISIS in Syria and Iraq, tunnels have been used throughout the annals of warfare, for both clever defensive and terrifying offensive purposes. The book addresses diverse tunnel threats globally far beyond the Israeli context. Obviously in the Israeli context the focus is on Hamas and Hezbollah.

Hamas has not yet pulled off the threat that former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz once warned of: Placing explosives under and blowing up an Israeli kindergarten. But the book mentions how the British managed to kill 10,000 German soldiers in one fell swoop with just such an explosives-tunneling attack in 1917 and others having succeeded with the same tactic. That means Gantz’s warning, which Richemond-Barak seconded, still needs to be taken seriously.

BEFORE DISCUSSING whether the IDF has the tunnel threat beaten or has merely developed initial counter-tactics, we need to explain the army’s journey in finding counter-tunnel tactics, what tactics it now employs, and why.

It took years for the IDF to come up with solutions after the tunnel disasters of the 2014 war. Why? Richemond- Barak said that “it was very possible that part of the delay was from the endless options. A lot of people came forward with ‘the’ solution, and there may be have been a lack of understanding that no one could provide a single solution to the problem.

“Once you need to assess multiple options, you may take your time to figure out what is worth investing in, especially when tomorrow you may face different challenges,” she says.

The IDF has only publicized a minimal part of how it is combating tunnels. It has published a number of stories about a range of robots, such as the I-robot, and specially trained dogs for entering and mapping tunnels, tactics usually employed only after a tunnel has been detected.

The IDF has publicized details of a wall under construction along the Gaza border – that it will be 6 meters high and several dozen meters deep – and surrounded by a system designed to locate and measure tunnels using sensors, aerostats and other intelligence gathering methods. Some of the sensors will be attached to large iron cages containing water-resistant pipes…