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Israeli army deploys new kit to detect Hezbollah tunnels

What happened: The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) announced the deployment yesterday of new “technological infrastructure” on the Lebanese border to detect underground construction.

  • The IDF described the new project as an “insurance policy” for the future and was careful to note, there is no new intelligence about cross-border tunnelling by Hezbollah. The infrastructure is based on unique technology, using acoustic and seismic data, specifically designed to fit the terrain characteristics of the northern border.
  • The engineering project, marked by digging a series of shafts deep underground, began yesterday, close to the community of Misgav Am and will provide an early warning if any digging is detected.
  • The IDF said the drilling will be seen and heard in both Israel and Lebanon. By making the announcement they “want to prevent a miscalculation”, adding they will, “continue our work in intelligence, engineering and technology.”

Context: In December 2018, in Operation “Northern Shield”, the IDF exposed and neutralised six cross-border attack tunnels which had been dug by Hezbollah.  The IDF claimed the operation, “deprived Hezbollah of a unique offensive ability it had been building for years, consuming substantial resources.”

  • At the end of that operation, the IDF noted that it had destroyed all the tunnels that had crossed into Israel, it was continuing to monitor several locations where Hezbollah were digging, but had not yet crossed into Israel.
  • The attack tunnels were thought to be a highly secretive Hezbollah plan, that would have been used by their elite Radwan force to invade Israel, cut access, infiltrate communities and kill civilians and soldiers.
  • This latest deployment is part of a broader defensive posture which also includes the building of large concrete barriers at certain vulnerable points along the Lebanon border.
  • Israel’s Ministry of Defence announced recently a technological breakthrough in its development of a new laser system that can intercept various threats, including rockets, mortars and drones.  They plan to continue testing the system throughout the year, with the aim of having it operational within 18 months.  The laser system will complement the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. The new laser will be substantially cheaper; costing less than 10 shekels (around £2) per interception, in contrast with Iron Dome, which costs about 170,000 shekels (£38,000) per interception. The laser-based interception is silent and invisible, it is based on electric laser technology. However, it does not function well in low visibility or bad weather. According to the MOD they will create three versions of the laser system: a static ground-based system that can be placed along Israel’s borders to protect nearby communities; one that can be loaded onto a mobile platform in order to defend troops in the field; and one that can be attached to aircraft in order to both work around the visibility issue by placing the system above the clouds and to dramatically extend the system’s range.
  • Israel currently operates a multi-tiered anti-missile defence system including the short-range Iron Dome, the medium range David’s Sling and the long-range Arrow and Patriot systems.

Looking ahead: The engineering project to detect tunnels will eventually cover the whole border between Israel and Lebanon and is expected to take several months to complete. Once in place it is expected to be able to prevent any attempt to build tunnels into Israel, thereby removing a potent weapon in Hezbollah’s arsenal.


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