Hamas tunnel

A Hamas terrorist works in a tunnel. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Congress is poised to approve US-Israel cooperation on R&D for anti-tunnel activity as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The US is concerned that other terrorist groups will follow the path of Hamas and use tunnels to carry out attacks.

Congress is on track to approve US-Israel cooperation on technology to defend against terrorist tunnels. The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes R&D to neutralize the threat posed by terror tunnels such as those discovered during Operation Protective Edge.

The NDAA is an annual, must-pass law that provides the budget and spending guidance for the US Department of Defense. The new amendment authorizes joint US-Israeli research and development on anti-tunnel technology and is part of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee’s contribution to the bill. The text combined two similar proposals by Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), respectively.

“Our closest ally in the Middle East – Israel – lives under the constant threat of terrorist attacks from underground tunnels,” Graham said. “The US-Israel Anti-Tunnel Defense Cooperation Act will launch an unprecedented new initiative to protect Israel from this dangerous menace. To secure peace, we must first help Israel secure their state from attacks. Iron Dome has saved countless civilian lives, and an anti-tunneling defense shield will save countless more.”

Rep. Gwen Graham. (wikipedia)

Rep. Gwen Graham proposed the amendment. (Wikipedia)

Israel discovered over 30 Hamas tunnels last summer during Operation Protective Edge. The tunnels were an integral part of a plot to smuggle 200 terrorists into Israel to kill and kidnap as many Israelis, soldiers and civilians, as possible. Hamas also used tunnels in 2006 to kidnap St.-Sgt. Gilad Shalit.

“We know that if Hamas has used tunnels in successful terrorist attacks, it is only a matter of time before terrorists elsewhere use tunnels as well,” Lanborn said. “Tunnels are a threat to American bases and embassies around the world, and are already a serious threat on our own southern border. For all these reasons, it only makes sense to partner with Israel, like we have done on missile defense, to learn with them about how to defend against tunnels.”

The House of Representatives has yet to start debating the NDAA 2016 bill’s provisions. However, the amendment is expected to remain in the final bill and be voted into law.