A classified project dedicated to the detection and destruction of tunnels being dug from the Gaza Strip received the Israel Defense Award on Tuesday. The award is presented annually by the president of Israel to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to homeland security, and is considered the highest honor bestowed in the defense community.
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The project was led by the technology research and development arm of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, called the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (Mafat), in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israeli military, and defense contractors Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Elbit Systems Ltd.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defense said that the project has led to a turning point in the fight against the threat of tunneling. Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza strip since 2005, has been digging underground tunnels that can reach into Israeli territory and put Israeli communities near the Gaza border in jeopardy. In the summer of 2014, Israel engaged in a 50-day war with Hamas in attempt to destroy its tunnel network. 2,205 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed and 18,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed in the fighting.
In November, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Israeli military has established a lab specializing in early detection of underground activity on and near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip, citing an anonymous source. The newspaper reported that the lab is staffed with engineers, geologists, intelligence specialists, and combat engineering officers, who are working to process data coming from a system of acoustic sensors designed to detect underground activity.
Israel is in the process of installing an underground wall along the Gaza border. Named the “Obstacle,” the wall is due for completion in January of 2019.