Watchdog to Probe IDF's Negligence Over Gaza Arms Tunnels

The continuing failure of the security forces' campaign against the tunnels in the Gaza Strip is the result of a series of unnecessary delays and unclear decisions that will soon be reviewed by the State Comptroller's Office, according to documents Haaretz has obtained.

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Over the past four years, at least 11 soldiers have been killed in the battle to combat the tunnels beneath the Philadelphi route, which divides the two halves of Rafah. Many others were indirect casualties of the materiel and terrorists smuggled from Egypt through the tunnels. The tunnel threat, for which the Israel Defense Forces has yet to find a solution, will only grow in coming months, as the Gaza pullout nears.

The documents indicate that as early as 1990, the IDF's Weapons Systems and Infrastructure Development Authority (WSIDA) and the Southern Command approached the Geophysical Institute of Israel about finding ways to locate the tunnels. The defense establishment rejected the institute's suggestion at the time to erect a "seismic fence."

Since then, several solutions have been presented to the WSIDA by various entities, but all were rejected or not implemented. In 1998, for instance, a test was conducted on behalf of WSIDA on a system developed by three Ben-Gurion University scientists to locate subterranean voids (the V-3 system). The test was successful, but the ties with WSIDA were cut. A year later, the scientists approached WSIDA again, but received no response - until early last year. They were informed that "the proposal was examined" and that the idea "was previously tested," but that "at this stage the solutions being examined are focused on other directions."

The scientists once more tried to convey their proposal to WSIDA, in late 2004, this time with the aid of Major General (ret.) Amiram Levin, but to no avail.

In September 2001, WSIDA distributed a call for proposals. Two years later, a comparison test was carried out on three detection systems developed by the Geophysical Institute and two companies - Hadas Detection and Decoding, and Electro-Optic Research and Development (EORD). The results of the test, which culminated in Hadas and EORD continuing to the next phase, are controversial. However, none of the systems has been incorporated into the field until now.

"It strikes me as very odd how so much time has elapsed and there's still no operational solution," says Levin. "I'm sure the technological problem could have been solved at a reasonable cost and on a much shorter timetable. This isn't the Ron Arad mystery."

The Defense Ministry considers the harsh criticism of WSIDA as terribly wronging dedicated employees. According to the ministry, the tunnel threat is "the highest" item on the list of priorities, and more than NIS 16 million have been invested in it.