‘Subterranean war’ challenges confront Israel in Gaza, Lebanon and now West Bank

Special to WorldTribune.com

TEL AVIV — Israel’s military has determined that Palestinian militias were developing operational tunnels in the West Bank.

Military sources said Palestinian militias have built tunnels in several cities of the West Bank for what could mark preparations for another war with Israel.

_44815285_west_bank_gen226The sources said the tunnels have been used to store weapons as well as link insurgency strongholds, particularly around Hebron and Nablus.

“Such facilities already exist in the primary combat zones of the IDF at the present time — in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon,” [Res.] Col. Atai Shelach said. “In other theaters such as Syria and the Judea and Samaria [West Bank] district, the field is evolving and the opponent is gaining capabilities.”

In an analysis, Shelach, former commander of the Army’s Yahalom combat engineering battalion, said the military has been preparing for a Palestinian tunnel war. Shelach, today a defense industry executive, said troops were being trained to detect and fight within Palestinian tunnels and bunkers as part of what he termed a subterranean war.

“In the context of subterranean maneuvering, the subterranean medium is
regarded as an untouched space — a space that is not fully networked or
charted,” Shelach said in an analysis for Israel Defense magazine. “The
conceptual system associated with this space is very partial. An analogy may
be drawn between this medium and the depths of the ocean on the one hand, or
the expanses of air and space on the other hand, as in the past, they, too,
were untouched spaces.”

Army officers agreed with Shelach’s assessment. They cited the discovery
of Hamas and Islamic Jihad tunnels in several cities in the West Bank over
the last two years. They said the tunnels were being constructed based on
assistance from the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

“The success of the tunnels in the Gaza Strip has naturally given rise
to their construction in Judea and Samaria,” an officer said. “The terrain
is different, but these challenges can be overcome.”

The officer agreed that the military would require advanced technology
to rapidly detect Palestinian tunnels as well as their entrances. For his
part, Shelach said this marked a leading challenge of Israel’s defense

“There is a significant operational need for the development of a
subterranean maneuvering capability in view of the currently evolving and
future threats and operational challenges,” Shelach said. “The IDF will be
required to operate in the subterranean medium more and more intensively in
the coming years and decades.”

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