US to invest $120 million into Israeli tunnel detection system – report

© Mohammed Salem
The US and Israel are each to invest $120 million into a tunnel detection system, which Israel says it needs to guard its borders, Israeli media reported.

Israeli companies have been developing systems in order to detect underground tunnels crossing under the border with Gaza since at least the mid-2000s. In 2005 and 2006, two systems were shortlisted and tested, but failed their trials.

The effort intensified after the 2014 hostilities in Gaza, during which the IDF encountered an unexpectedly sophisticates system of underground communications used by the militant group Hamas to transport troops and weapons.

Similar underground pathways dug across the border, colloquially known as ‘terror tunnels’ in Israel, are used to launch surprise attacks on Israeli territory. Destruction of the tunnels was stated as one of the primary military goals of the Israeli campaign.

The development is to receive a $120 million cash injection over the next few years, the news website Ynet reported this week. It added that US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who visited Israel in mid-January, approved the transfer of $40 million to cover the first year of the joint project. The Israeli government is to allocate a similar sum for the rapid deployment of the system, the report said

The system, which involves hundreds of sensors detecting the noise of underground construction and sophisticated computer software which identifies genuine signals from false ones, was field-tested on some parts of the Gaza border last summer.

Defense sources estimated that covering the entire border with Gaza would cost $380 million to $640 million. Creating a wall along the 65km border with Gaza similar to that erected by the US along its border with Mexico would cost much more, The Jerusalem Post reported at the time.

The IDF and Defense Ministry told defense firms Rafael and Elbit involved in the development that “there is no budget limitation” for the project, a military source told the newspaper.

America’s investment in the tunnel detection system may pay off as tunnels not unlike those constructed by Hamas are used by smugglers at the US southern border too.