IDF expands operations along Gaza border ahead of peace conference
Fearing terror groups will step up efforts to carry out large-scale attack inside Israel on eve of Annapolis summit, IDF widens scope of border security operations while focusing on tunnels being dug from Gaza, a favorite tactic of terrorists trying to smuggle into Israel
The military has been using bulldozers and other types of heavy earth-moving equipment in order to foil attempts by Palestinians terrorist networks to infiltrate into Israel via underground passages.
"A terrorists attack emanating from a tunnel is likely to end badly, and we're doing all we can to prevent this," an anonymous military official said.
The area surrounding the Erez terminal between Gaza and Israel is circled on IDF maps as a sector ripe for penetration by burrowing terrorists. Over the weekend, the Erez terminal as well as the Karni and Kerem-Shalom terminals were subjected to increased searching and scanning in an attempt to locate subterranean conduits.
The IDF believes that the security between Israel and the Gaza Strip has made it very difficult for terrorist groups to dispatch attacks from the coastal territory and as a direct result of this obstacle, tunnels have become a far more effective means.
"It is possible to launch attacks through the air - the rocket and mortar fire we've been seeing more of - the sea or beneath the ground," the official said.
Top IDF brass have admitted in recent months that a number of the tunnels dug from Gaza were already nearing completion upon their discovery.
One officer even estimated that as many as a dozen tunnels where currently being dug while some were likely ready to be used.
The method employed by terrorist organizations to hollow out underground passages is relatively simple: They select a spot underneath a plot of land that is populated or being used to raise livestock or for agricultural purposes to begin their dig. They then begin excavations by digging 30-45 feet into the ground in order to conceal the tunnel's existence and then being burrowing horizontally until they reach the desired span of the underground passage.
Information and knowledge of tunnel construction is kept strictly compartmentalized in order to prevent any leaks that may reveal the tunnel's exact location.
Most of the tunnels are designated for use as conduits for the passage of terrorists, but some have been used in the past as "tunnel bombs." This type of attack is carried out when a large explosive charge is placed in a tunnel that has been dug under a sensitive site - an Israeli settlement or military post - and detonated with devastating results.
One of the most prominent uses of a tunnel in a terrorist attack was the incident that took place in June of 2006 when Israeli solider Gilad Shalit was abducted by Gaza-based terrorists that burrowed into Israel. The terrorists killed two members of Shalit's tank crew and brought him back to Gaza to be held as a bargaining chip.