Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Hamas tunnels

Israel’s open warfare with Hamas is, so the government says, partly about the tunnels by which terrorists are introduced into southern Israel. This opinion piece in The Washington Post attempts, not entirely successfully, to account for the alarm the Israelis feel about tunnels.

Be that as it may, I wonder why there is not a tech defense against tunnels. Israel has one of the best archaeological infrastructures in the world.

Israel knows how to use airborne magnetic anomaly detectors and sidescan radar to identify long buried ancient sites. It ought also be possible to use seismic sensors to indicate where tunnels are being dug. In this Haaretz story, other methods are suggested, from something as simple as microphones (used during World War I) to microgravity sensors to satellite observation.

The purpose of this post is only to ask whether there is not a tech answer to the ancient military use of tunnels, not to suggest that a ground invasion of Gaza is not necessary on other grounds

Haaretz hints both that the Israel Defense Forces have been remiss and that they have tried at least some tech defenses with indifferent results:

Langotsky says it was a mistake not to give Military Intelligence and the IDF’s technological units responsibility for finding a solution to the tunnel problem. Instead, too much money has been wasted, he says.
For secrecy’s sake, the IDF, the Defense Ministry and the defense contractors developing the technology — such as Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems — declined to answer TheMarker’s queries on the matter. Scientists from the Technion, where two teams are working on the tunnel problem, also declined to comment.
The Defense Ministry said: “All the technologies mentioned in the story are very well known to the defense establishment and have been examined in depth in light of the threat and soil conditions in the sector. For reasons of classified information, we are prevented from providing details on the use of each of these technologies.”

 RtO suggests that finding tunnels offers superb opportunities for psychological warfare, a chance to reverse the thrust of asymmetric warfare that usually works against the stronger side.

For example, a tunnel could be mined with an “Ambien bomb,” something to put terrorists to sleep as they emerge or wait near the Israel exit of a tunnel. (Strictly, such a  “bomb” would violate international law, but I do not think these laws are worth acknowledging.) Then the would-be terrorists could be hog-tied and perp-walked through Tel Aviv.

More fiendish would be turning the psychological reaction that Gerard DeGroot says is the tunnel’s reason for being against the tunnelers.

If it is possible, as Haaretz asserts, to detect people in a tunnel, then preset mines or air attacks at each end, sealing them in, ought to make even dedicated Palestinian would-b e martyrs reluctant to become tunnel militants.

A Fox News story, using IDF sources, says the Gaza entrances to the tunnels are hidden in mosques, schools, homes and sometimes UN relief buildings, which make locating both ends of a tunnel from outside problematic, although daring Israeli “tunnel rats” could overcome this problem.

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