In a rare interview with CNN on Wednesday, senior IDF officials revealed they are testing a new tunnel detection system with the help of American military aid meant to thwart Hamas's sophisticated terror attack tunnel network into Israeli territory, which the Islamist group is busily rebuilding by siphoning off humanitarian aid material.
The IDF was surprised at how advanced the Hamas tunnels were in Operation Protective Edge, locating and destroying 32 of the lethal underground routes.
One year after last summer's war, the IDF is testing a new detection system along the Gaza border as Hamas builds new tunnels which Israel must find to keep its civilians safe.
IDF Maj. Nir Peled told CNN that the tunnels are a constant threat, noting it's "just like a game of hide-and-seek. We manage to find one tunnel, so we know that Hamas are digging the next tunnel in a different way, in a different depth."
Peled acknowledged that the IDF was aware of Hamas tunnels years before last summer's war but had trouble locating them. Now with its new detection system, Israel hopes to make the threat a thing of the past.
Atai Shelach, an IDF tunnel expert quoted in the report, said Israel cannot give information about how the system works for fear that Hamas will use that information to find ways around it. He added that terror tunnels will become a major part in future wars – a warning that comes amid concerns that the Iran-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon is building similar tunnels into Israel.
"It's going to be our problem for at least five decades. One of the main tools to struggle and to be a kind of a fair fight is to go underground," Shelach said, noting how terror groups use the tunnels to gain an advantage.
The IDF was surprised by the sophistication of Hamas terror tunnels last summer – which were of dimensions that a motorcycle could ride through – and warns Hamas is only improving its capabilities.
IDF Capt. Daniel Elbo told the paper that the tunnels are "perfectly safe to be inside, which means that it is a very good building procedure."
Statistics from the IDF indicate the average height of the tunnels in last summer's war was 5 feet 8 inches with a width of 2 feet, and each tunnel was surrounded by 1.5 inches of concrete to reinforce it. The average tunnel length was 3 kilometers (1.9 miles), costing $3 million each and taking three years to build.
Funding Israel's work to defend itself from the threat by developing the new defense system, $40 million is to be allocated to Israel in an amendment to the House Defense Appropriations Bill.
In addition, an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act by Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) requires a report on how tunnels are being used by terrorist groups.
"They are used for terrorist attacks, but they are also used to smuggle arms and contraband," Israel said of the tunnels. "We have learned that these tunnels are being used well beyond Israel. Korea is another example – tunnels have been found in North Korea. Here at home (in the US), more than 150 tunnels have been found since 2009."