The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) announced that they have found a solution for one of the most disturbing challenges they face, mainly on the Gaza border: A new technology, codenamed “Mispar Hazak,” or Power Number, that will expose the underground tunnels of the Palestinians, used to smuggle large amounts of firearms and other sabotage materials into the Gaza Strip.
Recently, a final test of the technology was conducted near the Kerem Shalom crossing (between the Gaza strip-Israel and the Egyptian borders), not far from where IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in 2006 by Hamas terrorists who used an underground tunnel to enter Israel. In the course of the test, soldiers belonging to an elite engineering unit posed as Palestinian diggers and dug tunnels, which the new system succeeded in uncovering. The new sensor system was developed by a technological brigade (Hatal). During the test, fighters from the elite unit dug a number of tunnels at different depths, using the digging tools typically employed by the Palestinians.
“The results were impressive,” said a senior officer. Three graduates of the prestigious Talpiot program (an IDF training program for soldiers with academic excellence in the sciences) began working on this difficult enterprise only about two years ago.
Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Naveh has already allocated the funds for development, and by the end of next year the new sensor technology will be deployed along ten kilometers of the Gaza Strip border. “We think that we have found a solution for the tunnel problem, and we will soon have the means to respond to this threat,” said the officer.
Colonel Tal Hermoni, commander of the Southern Brigade of the Gaza Division, said the underground threat from Gaza continues to be troublesome, because “Hamas digs tunnels into Israel in order to kidnap soldiers.” Hermoni also said that the IDF’s primary means of addressing the threat is through military intelligence.
The 2007 state comptroller’s report cited an “ongoing failure in dealing with the problem of the tunnels” after 17 soldiers were killed either directly or indirectly by activity from the Gaza tunnels. The report said that “all attempts to respond to the threat were flawed with regard to operational conception, technological effort and intelligence.” The report also cited three examples of military and civil systems that the IDF tried to advance, but none met the requirements.
The method employed by the new technology is classified; however, we can say that the three developers closely examined the methods that failed and developed geo-phones that were placed five feet (1.5 meters) into the ground. These geo-phones measure energy waves in the earth and are equipped with acoustic components taken from sensors used by the navy as well as from devices used to search for oil. “This system has the impressive ability of alerting us to any digging,” explained the officer.
In light of the successful trial, Naveh gave the green light for development. By next month, a tender will be issued for a company to actually create the system.
In the first stage, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2013, the system will be deployed the length of six miles (10 kilometers) on the Gaza Strip’s border; in the next phase it will be extended to 34 miles (54 kilometers).
The entire project, including development, is expected to cost $51 million.