Israeli soldiers who have developed technology to distinguish a uniformed friend from a disguised foe are honing a system that detects tunnels used by militants to attack from the Gaza Strip, their commander said.
“The attack tunnels are something that isn’t going to disappear. They will continue using them,” Brigadier General Danny Beren said in an interview Sept. 2. “We will try and re-calibrate all responses we have, and technology is one of them.”
Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip turned into ghost towns during the conflict, their residents spooked by Hamas gunmen who popped out of underground passages, killing 11 soldiers in clashes. The Israeli military said it destroyed more than 30 tunnels by the end of the 50-day war, an achievement touted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as one of Israel’s successes.
Technology that Beren’s Lotem unit has designed lets commanders know within seconds where and when infiltrators have emerged to allow “a suitable military response,” he said. He declined to elaborate on the technology involved.
Lotem’s task is to develop and operate military communication networks. During the fighting, the unit was stationed near Gaza where its systems analyzed and transmitted intelligence reports for air, ground and naval forces, Beren said.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, were killed, and thousands of homes and businesses, as well as utilities, were destroyed or heavily damaged during the fighting, according to Gaza officials.
Israel struck more than 5,200 targets and militants fired about 4,600 rockets at Israeli communities, according to the military’s tally. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel also accuses Hamas of putting civilians in harms way by operating from residential areas.
Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side, almost all of them soldiers. The Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted 735 rockets headed for built-up areas, according to the military.
Lotem supported Iron Dome by designing technology that sets off an alert after a rocket is launched and identifies its trajectory so sirens can be sounded, Beren said.
Fighting was complicated for Israeli soldiers when they came up against Hamas gunmen wearing similar military uniforms, according to Israeli media reports.
“You need to be able to figure out who is friend and who is foe,” Beren said. “Our technological equipment allows you to do that.” He declined to elaborate.
With Israel’s enemies able to take advantage of off-the-shelf and open source technology, Lotem is also girding itself for increasingly sophisticated adversaries, Beren said.
Gabi Siboni, cyber-warfare program director at the Institute for National Security Studies, said in an Aug. 26 report that Iran, which Israel says supports Hamas, showed growing maturity in its anti-Israeli cyber activity during the recent fighting. He advised Israel to set up an agency to command cyber defense.
Beren said he anticipates discussions on setting up such a command to begin next year.
“Cyber will be the main thing to come and we are preparing ourselves for any surprises our enemies are thinking to prepare,” he said.