Israeli military confirms reports of Gazan terror group rebuilding tunnel infrastructure, approves expansion of specialized subterranean engineering unit.
its underground activities beneath Gaza, more than a month afterPalestinian sources told Ynet that the terror group was rehabilitating its tunnel infrastructure.
“The other side has not neglected this capability,” warned a senior engineering officer on earlier in the day. On Monday, Israeli intelligence officials confirmed the developments to the British newspaper The Times.
Al-Qassem Brigades showing off new tunnels (Photo: Reuters)
Meanwhile, the IDF decided to expand its special engineering unit (Yahlom) by hundreds of combat and support troops. The senior officer said the threat posed by the tunnels was ongoing. “I believe that Hamas learned from the (past) campaign and it will only improve this capability ahead of the next round.”
According to Palestinian sources in the Strip who spoke to Ynet in December, a black market for mortar emerged after Israel allowed the flow of limited goods and materials into Gaza – allowing Hamas to renew construction of concrete slabs used to line the inside of the tunnels.
On Monday, the British newspaper reported that Israeli intelligence officials said Hamas was building a “new generation” of homemade rockets and has been digging terror tunnels intended to reach Israel. According to the report, dozens of long range rockets fired since September 16 were identified on the Iron Dome system’s radar, but fell into the sea.
The Times said that according to their sources, Hamas has been trying to upgrade its rocket manufacturing capabilities.
After more than two years of work in the General Staff – and in the wake of Operation Protective Edge – the IDF completed this week the process of significantly increasing the size of the Yahalom special unit; it’s new commander, Yaron Beit-on, will receive a Colonel rank, as opposed to previous commanders, ranked Lieutenant Colonel.
Expanding the unit specializing in underground warfare will mean the addition of a combat squadron to specialize in subterranean fighting and another unit to focus on charting, identifying, and destroying the tunnels, as well as a large technical body to support all the technological challenges of underground warfare.
The senior officer added that the defense establishment has yet to complete a proven operational technological development to locate the tunnels. Still, he said, there has been significant progress in the field.
“I hope we can adapt this to the concrete threat in Gaza. There are a number of measures we have tried in recent months, with more than a few successes. We have tried different technologies which have made certain accomplishments, but they are limited and have not provided a complete response to all the challenges. The best of minds are helping us,” explained the senior officer.
The focus of the project has been the identification and destruction of tunnels. “We saw that it was very challenging to destroy them and we had to insert a lot of explosives to destroy the tunnels; and we want to do it much faster,” he said.
“We are talking about additional explosives measures, and we are making them part of training and preparation as soon as possible,” added the officer.
In past attempts to develop sensors to identify tunnels succeeded their lab tests but failed in field testing. While the sterile conditions in the lab allowed perfect operation, the ground in the field was full of background noises.
Recently, the IDF explored preventative solutions which do not locate tunnels, but physically hinder digging towards Israeli territory. However, an exorbitant price-tag of billions of shekels has put a hold on procurement of such measures at this stage